Just like there is not a perfect way for survivor of sexual violence to heal, there’s not an perfect way to understand why sexual violence happens. It’s not cut and dry nor is it “rocket science” and this sort of thinking needs to end, because the real victim is suvivor, not the perpetrator nor the social context that everyone believes that it is the woman’s responsibility to not get raped.
In the article by Jack Fischl of the online site Mic titled, ” 5 Things To Do and 7 Things Not To Do When Someone Tells You They Were Sexually Assaulted”, actually lists what those things. I will elaborate on each one.
7 Things NOT To Do
- Do NOT criticize the survivor’s actions leading up to or during the assault and do NOT suggest other ways what they could have handled the situation. Example:
-“Why didn’t you push him off?“
-“Why didn’t you scream for help?”
Doing so is unproductive and will only result in the survivor blaming themselves.
2. Do NOT compare rape stories. Example
“Well at least you weren’t gang-raped like that girl in India.”
Unfortunately, victims of sexual assault can also make the same mistake of doing this too:
Victim 1: I was date-raped…
Victim 2: Well at least you weren’t raped by someone you trusted.
3. If you are family of a survivor, do NOT tell the survivor that they should “get over their rape and move on with their life.
Yes the incident may have have an impact on their behavior, however this does not condone such comments like, “Why can’t you go back to the way things were?” or “Just get over it.” Unlike physical injuries, emotions ones may take much longer to heal.
4. If you are family of a survivor, do NOT blame the victim for not being more supportive of the family.
Keep in mind this will affect you, the rest of your family and your loved one who underwent the incident, but above all that be sure to focus on your love one’s needs.
5. Do NOT sympathize with the rapist by saying anything like:
“He was too drunk to know what he was doing.”
“Boys will be boys.”
“Well, she though she consented.”
6. Do NOT ever prescribe to the idea that “Sometimes, girls just don’t know what they want or that “A man knows what’s best:
To some men they think no means yes.
7. Do NOT ever use any of the following phrases, ever:
“Well maybe if she didn’t wear that a skimpy outfit she wouldn’t have been raped.”
“Maybe if she didn’t drink so much she wouldn’t have been date raped.”
“Maybe if she hadn’t trusted her boyfriend for so long she wouldn’t have blind-sided and had no idea what was happening to her.
“Maybe if she was smarter she wouldn’t be raped.”
5 Things TO Do
So then what is the more appropriate approach to support? Fischl suggests that 5 things that can be done.
- Empathize. Say for example: I’m sorry that happened to you.
- Offer to be there. For example say, “If You ever need to vent, talk, or just cry, you can call me. I’m so sorry.”
- Offer to listen. By allowing the survivor to talk about what they went through, you are allowing them to heal, which is healthier.
- As a survivor, if you don’t know what to do, don’t know what to think, that’s normal. Be patient and good to yourself. You will get better.
- Remember that is isn’t your problem to solve. You’re there to support the victim, and that’s it. Keep in mind that if a survivor of sexual assault comes to you don’t expect it’s something to be solved nor something you can apply your own logic to (men with all their good intentions can be notorious of this).
There’s not an easy to help a survivor of sexual assault, but doing those 5 simple things can be a good start. You may be like, “Those simple 5 things? That’s it?” That’s it. I tell my family and friends that all the time. It helps me heal, knowing they’re just there for me. And as for the 7 things about what NOT to do? It’s as simple as well…NOT doing them.