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Author Topic: I'm concerned about a friend..
eryn_smiles
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She's someone I went to university with and we became quite close a couple of years ago. The first time I realised that she was having trouble was when she missed a week of lectures and a test. It turned out she had been raped by a taxi driver while travelling at night. She told the police but unfortunately the driver was never identified. Because the police were involved, many of her friends and family came to know what happened.

But as we talked more, she told me it wasn't the first time. She was abused multiple times by family/ community members as a child. She was raped at one of her teenage birthday parties. Those ones, she didn't tell people about. I'm ashamed to say that at the beginning I didn't believe her. I didn't think it happened to people I knew. She was the most confident, outgoing, funny woman I knew. Along with that, she self-harmed and had one suicide attempt (that I knew of). At that time, we talked about her getting help. She had tried antidepressants and a few therapists. She saw a psychiatrist and had her 12 sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy. She assured me that none of it worked. And when I suggested trying again she would change the subject or just not talk to me for awhile.

I never saw her cry or really show emotion about this. She tells me she reacts physically. She barely slept and often had panic attacks. She told me she would rather walk miles and miles home than catch a taxi by herself again. She had problems with chronic abdominal and pelvic pains, irregular periods and vomitting. The scans, gastroscopy and diagnostic laproscopy didn't reveal a reason. While I'm obviously not her doctor, my feeling is that this is all related to the trauma she went through.

So, fastforward 2 years and we're both working our 1st jobs in different cities. We're not so close anymore. We talked last weekend, she tells me very matter-of-fact that she was in "the wrong place at the wrong time again, not a big deal". She was a party with a flatmate. I believe her flatmates don't know about her past. Somehow, the flatmate ended up leaving without her and she got locked outside without her belongings. She had a panic attack and dissociated. She couldnt find her way home and was picked up in car, taken to their place and raped. She ran away when they fell asleep.

Gently I try to bring up whether she's seen someone about what happened. She knows the phone number of rape crisis. She changes the subject or tells me its "nothing really". But the following week she's in crippling abdominal pain again (?cause, the doctors say). When its really bad, she takes extended sick leave. Other times she dissociates at work.

As you can imagine, I feel worried and helpless. I'm worried for her and also a little for her patients. I'm the first to admit that we all make mistakes and bad decisions sometimes and forget things. But sometimes those things can be costly. We can't afford to keep working with no sleep or when our minds are completely elsewhere. I'm not going to say this to her. When I say what she doesn't to hear, she just shuts down. So at the moment, we talk casually only. I try to check in regularly and make sure she's hanging in there. I have no idea what else I can do...or whether it's even my business to do something. I do know that no-one deserves what she's been through.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Ecofem
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Hey! I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. It sounds like you're trying to do all you can in terms of being supportive but it's hard enough from far away and especially difficult when she's not seeking the help available.

I wouldn't say she's so much making bad decisions as much as she's gotten so used to such violence that she feels too helpless to take action. [Frown] How about calling one of those crisis lines yourself and seeing what they recommend you do? If you were there with her, you could offer to call while she was in the room or go with her to an appointment. However, it ultimately comes down to her reaching out. If you think her situation is to the point where it's impairing her professional ability, is there any way you could talk to some doctor support group where she works so someone could talk to her about it or check into things. Of course, there is the issue of privacy as well as personal rights here, so I know it's a really hard call.

Good luck! I have a friend in a similar situation-- wanting to help an acquaintance and trying to get her to seek help, offering her physical support to do so to have that person, understandably yet unfortunately, not reach out for the available resources.

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eryn_smiles
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Lena, thanks for your reply.

Both of those are good ideas. What's stopping me is that I know she'd be really angry with me for breaking her privacy. Probably the only reason she talks to me is that she knows I wouldn't tell anyone. Of course, if she told me she was about to kill herself, I would tell someone. But at the moment when shes reasonably stable, I don't know if thats the right thing to do.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Ecofem
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You're welcome. [Smile]

I'm glad to hear she seems stable right now. It *is* really tricky because she's a friend; I know we have mandatory abuse recognition training for work and review the policy each year. We're required to report it but also guaranteed anonymity and are free of any negative repercussions for telling because we are doing it in good faith. We also report to two designated people who are not our supervisors in any way. However, that's talking about minors we are responsible for and this is a friend.

I think back to what someone once told me (in other words, I can no longer remember the source): If someone tells us about secret abuse, even if they are not taking action themselves, they are hoping that the person they tell will speak up so they no longer have to suffer through it. Even if she keeps ending up in these dangerous situations, at least it seems she is relatively safe from her original abuser.

If it ever comes to the point where you feel you must tell someone but are having trouble, you could think of this. If your telling means she never talks to you again but seeks the help she needs, then it could be very worth it in many ways. Also, I think it's also important to think of your own feelings with this. If you feel it's too hard to support her when she's not taking action, you have a right to that, too. I hope she does seek out that help and that she stays safe.

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eryn_smiles
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Thanks again Lena.

I had another long talk with her. She had a probable miscarriage one week after taking ECP (She started bleeding when her period wasn't due and her BHCG was raised; incidentally this was the only reason she went for a medical checkup after the rape)- how unlucky is that! It turns out she did talk with a rape crisis counsellor once last week. The problem is that (probably unintentionally) she puts on a really good front for people. She looks like she's coping outstandingly well and didnt mention anything about dissociating/panic/insomnia/getting admittted to hospital etc. Apparently, the counsellor thought she was managing fine and asked her what exactly she needed. So my friend wasn't planning to go back to her.

I was thinking about what you said above, about why she's telling me all of this. That maybe she wants me to speak up or help her to seek help, even though thats not what she says. So after a couple of hours of nagging/reasoning/pep talk she agreed to go back to the counsellor and try to be more open, although I got the feeling she was mostly doing it to get me off her back. She seems really depressed to me. She doesnt care about what happens to her and can't see a time when things will get better. I tried to give her some hope but I don't think it worked.

I am finding it quite a draining friendship. I don't want to be the only person carrying this secret burden for her. The other friends she has told tend to get very angry or upset whereas I dont tend to react like that, although I do worry about her. (She's also someone who has said some hurtful homophobic comments in the past, so is not someone that I have ever been able to confide in). I'm ok with this for now and I have been talking to a different friend for support about her situation, without mentioning names and specifics.

[ 06-22-2009, 08:15 PM: Message edited by: eryn_smiles ]

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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eryn_smiles
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Last week, my friend took some stuff from the hospital and came very close to attempting suicide. Her flatmate found what she was going to do and threw it away.

The man who raped her as a teenager has been contacting her online. This seemed to have really triggered her and she was planning to drive up north to meet him so he could just "finish it off". Again someone called and stopped her when she was halfway there.

She continues to see her rape crisis counsellor fortnightly but doesn't tell him much. She's at work only on and off.

And every few days we talk, I ask her to see her GP or call her counsellor urgently or talk to her family. And she says "hmm" and doesn't. I ask her to please tell someone next time she feels like driving up to see him..but I don't think she will. I pointed her to Pandora's aquarium- she wasn't interested.

I'm 800km away, and really scared for her. A couple of days have gone by without hearing from her. I want to call her family myself, but I can't. She told me clearly she doesn't want them to know.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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orca
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I understand wanting to honor your friend's confidentiality, and normally I would support that and say it's the right thing to do. However, when someone is talking about harming themselves or someone else, it is okay to break confidentiality in order to protect them from causing that harm. So in this situation, it just may be necessary to let someone know so she doesn't hurt herself or end up in jail for hurting her rapist.

Do you know what her family is like? That is, do you know whether they are the type to be supportive or if they would shame her? I understand this is a difficult situation to navigate to begin with, more so because of the physical distance. Have you spoken with any friends who live near her and know what's going on?

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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eryn_smiles
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Yeah, I do think she's in danger of hurting herself or putting herself in harms way. I don't think she was referring to hurting the rapist..she was talking about the pain being so bad that she wanted to let *him* finish what he had started.

I know her family would ask alot of questions and probably scold her. Last time she talked to her mum about one of the previous rapes, her mother asked her why she had gone out in the night like a slut. So she's been really reluctant to talk to them. I also know she was abused as a child but am not sure if there was any family involvement or condoning of that.

Well, only her flatmates and one guy at her work know whats going on. I haven't met them and don't have contact details for them.

Do you think it would be reasonable for me to call her counsellor at rape crisis and ask him to contact her? I know that she trusts him, or at least is starting to trust him.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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orca
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I think it would be reasonable. And probably the counselor is the most appropriate person to contact since he's trained in handling such situations and is already a support person for her. He also will have to keep her information confidential (unless the rules are different where she lives).

This sounds like a really tough situation, and I imagine it's a lot to handle. How are you doing in all of this?

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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eryn_smiles
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Finally she got in contact with me and she's alright. I have no idea why she didn't reply to my messages. (I didn't end up calling her counsellor or family, although was going to).

Thanks orca. Yes, I hate this situation. I hate that I got so worried over this. When someone keeps something to themselves, its still their responsibility. But once they share something so big, it becomes your responsibility too. I wish she would get proper help, you know.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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