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.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the story of Medusa. You know… the woman who was cursed because she was beautiful and then ended up having snakes heads for hair and with just one look, she’d turn her victims into stone. The only way she could be stopped, by cutting off her head. But have you heard of the real…story about WHY she was really cursed?
The whole thing started when Medusa, a mortal, was raped by Posideon because she was beautiful. The thing it was happening in Athena’s place of worship and Athena cursed Medusa into a monster. Anyone see the problem with this? This whole time, even through pop culture, she was this evil monster, who in every story had her head cut off and her killer was named a hero. However, she was victim of rape and victim blaming. And here I thought that Athena was supposed to be the goddess of wisdom.
In an episode of Charmed, titled “Switches and Stones”, Maggie, Mel, and Macy find a case of men who are turned into stone. This all happening during the time of Maggie’s Kappa Rush time and…during the time Maggie and Mel switched bodies by accident due to a magic spell. The sister’s figure it’s a magical creature, Medusa, who is turning people, mostly guys, to stone. But they are wondering, why…
Huh how interesting…a demon helping victims of slut shaming, makes you wonder who is worse humans or monsters? I mean…it’s one thing being the person who starts slut shaming, but another to be a bystander. The bystander effect according to Psychology Today, occurs when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation.
So what is a bystander? According to Google, a bystander is someone (or a group of people) who is present at an event or incident, but does not take part. Other words for bystander include onlooker. But then…there is an interesting term called “Bystander Effect.” So what is the “Bystander Effect?” The bystander effect occurs when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation (Psychology Today, n.d). In the case of the scene, the students were looking at the pics on their phone. So the question is then why what would cause students who clearly saw disturbing pictures of girls to do practically nothing. A chart from another Psychology Today article explains this (Burn, n.d.):
Again in the case of the students in the show, I wanna say they were “engaged” in numbers 2,3, and 5. The kids seemed fascinated more with the pictures and the shock value, rather than to call out (especially in front of their peers) a wrongdoing. In emergency situations where there four or more bystanders, only 31% will help (Gaille, 2017). In this case, that’s Mel, Maggie, and Macy out of all the people who are at the Kappa Rush party. Disappointing.
Non-Consensual Photo Sharing
So sad. She had summon a demon to stand up for her, because other people wouldn’t. I can’t imagine the distress anyone would go through when going something like THAT, ESPECIALLY after telling the abuser NOT to send the picture. The act that the girl’s abuser is called, “Non-Consensual Photo Sharing”. What constitutes as “Non-Consensual Photo Sharing” is (Breakthrough, n.d.):
Taking intimate photos or video without consent
Sharing intimate photos or videos taken with consent-and the reasonable expectation of privacy-and sharing them without consent
Sharing photos or videos with the intention of humiliating, degrading, or harassing someone
Using coercive behavior to obtain intimate photos or videos
Taking and sharing photos or videos of sexual assault
Unsolicited photo and video sharing as harassment
That’s the unfortunate thing slut shaming does…it causes low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and relationship disturbances. Whatever form sexual assault/harassment comes in, “No” ALWAYS means “No”. To not respect, is well…sexual assault/harassment. In the case of the girl. So what is consent? It must be:
So, the pictures of the girl were not given by her consent.
When we as a people engage in victim blaming, we are basically ostracizing them…saying their story doesn’t matter. When we say things like (“How To,” n.d.):
She asked for it
It wasn’t really rape
He didn’t mean to
She wanted it
Rape is a trivial event
Rape is a deviant event
Victims are already going through so much in themselves: shame, low self-esteem, hopelessness/helplessness, denial or minimizing what had happened to them and fear of the consequences if they do report what happened to them, especially if their assaulter is rich and powerful (Engel, 2017).
How to Help Victims of Sexual Assault
Definitely, what can be a help is by carefully wording what we say (“Tips for, n.d):
“I believe you”./ “It took you a lot of courage to me about this.”
“It’s not your fault.”/ “You didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
“You are not alone.” /”I care about you and I am here to listen or help in anyway I can.”
“I’m sorry this happened”/ “This shouldn’t have happened to you.”
Other Reasons Why People Don’t Step In
There are some other reasons why people remain bystanders:
“[The] situations present that create more danger to a perceived situation, such as having a perpetrator present.“
“[S]omeone will only choose to act if the potential reward is greater than the known risk.“
“The costs of an intervention being physical in nature is one of the greatest attenuations of the bystander effect.”
“The more we live in cities and are part of crowds, the problems of ignoring the plight of individuals, of communities and groups will remain with us, unless we address it proactively.”
I liked how Maggie…well, Mel (who was in Maggie’s body), talked about what happened to one of the rushees who was assaulted even though she was afraid (for Maggie’s sake at least) she might lose her place as a Kappa Rushee. Luckily that didn’t happened
What Else Can Be Done To Help Sexual Assault Victims
There are plenty of ways to help victims of sexual assault with having to do anything uber heroic.
Check in periodically with them
Knowing your resources- This includes knowing the RAINN hotline: (800) 273-HOPE (4673), knowing the National Suicide Provider Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK (8255), but most importantly…remind them to do good self-care
If you want to intervene there are some things that can be used to protect and help you (Gaille, 2017):
“Many communities have enacted Good Samaritan laws that require people to help when they see an emergency situation or a legal penalty, including jail time in some jurisdictions, may result.”
“Training programs that give people certain skills to better recognize an emergency situation can help spur action when they see it happen for real outside of the classroom.”
“Rewards and other protections have been instituted in different industries and environments to protect whistleblowers and heighten the need for ongoing activism.”
If you or someone you know is undergoing any form of nonconsensual photo sharing contact the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative Hotline number below:
You can also visit the CCRI website for more details:
I don’t really get the whole thing about victim shaming. No…it’s not that I don’t know what it is, but rather..why does society blame the victim? Why does society seem to crucify the people who need the most help? The victims who presented themselves on the Lifetime show, “Surviving R. Kelly” and even on the Dateline Special, “R.Kelly: Accused” are viewed pretty much as TV whores….women who are vying for their 15 minutes of fame and to gain money. However, after even listening to clips of their stories, I believed them, especially when they talked how it affected their lives, because I know how my incident affected mine.
So in a definition context, what is victim shaming? According to Wikipedia (I just loved how they perfectly defined it), “Victim Shaming or victim blaming “occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befalls them.” Why is that? It’s because compared to a robbery, the victim is more to their assaulter.
Here are some other reasons why people disbelieve survivors (Whiting, 2019):
The Myth of the Evil Perpetrator
Wishing the World Was Safe
The Wrong Kind of Victim
Confusion and Self-Blame
The Myth of the Evil Perpetrator
This is guy that everyone understates. Why? One could be his socioeconomic status…meaning he’s rich….he’s successful. He has an outstanding reputation…the guy that everyone loves…the guy everyone knows and trusts. He’s the “nice guy” and this “nice guy” is either good looking or they are someone you’d even trust your children with.They’d never do such heinous things.
Larry Nassar, the now disgraced USA Gymnastics national team doctor and osteopathic physician for Michigan State University, was someone who well-known for being generous, selfless, and committed. He was known for his goofy charm and steadfast service, that when the young girls tried to report his actions , their cries were often ignored. And it didn’t help either since he was known for “women’s pelvic issues” which was helpful for common injuries that were faced in gymnastics, he would rebuke the girl’s cries of his sexual advances by saying they misunderstood his “technique”.
Wishing the World Was Safe
I guess for some people ignorance really is bliss for some people while still having this “I could have seen it a mile a way” attitude. Well, of course they could. If after I’ve heard someone story without having being in the situation myself, of course, I would have seen it coming. Researchers call this the “hindsight effect.” In one study, research participants read different versions of a story. One group of participant read a version where a character was raped at the end, while the other group head the netural ending. The first group displayed a bias toward their character after picking up on clues from the story hence leading towards the “I knew it all along” bias where the listening audience may make the situation being told them “predictable” or “easy” when really…. it wasn’t.
In Mississippi, a woman was raped on a Biloxi Bay Bridge when she went out running. Even though she reported the assault and was treated and tested local hospital, people still had something to say about the incident: “I would not run alone that late at night, especially being a woman. Go during daylight or with a running buddy” and “It’s dark at 6 p.m. what was was she even doing alone walking on the bridge?”
The Wrong Kind of Victim
Or what is called, “ideal victim” is where the victim must fit these five characteristics:
Involved in a respectable activity at the time of victimization
Blameless in all aspects of the interaction
Victimized by an obvious offender
Someone who does not know the offender
Example: If a person fights back, is not dressing in the right way, is intoxicated or if the accused is someone they know, their story is more likely to be questioned or doubted
4. Confusion and Self-Blame
Here the victim may either accept that the blame their perpetrator is placing on them or feel a deep shame for allowing the abuse to keep happening or for being at the wrong place or for not getting away.
One of Larry Nassar’s early victims, Larissa Boyce, while trusting in her coach who found her claim upsetting, then was told by her coach, that if she reported about the incident it would have “very serious consequences” for both Nassar and herself. Terrified at this possibility, Larissa end up eventually crying and apologizing to Nassar, saying it was a “misunderstanding and all her fault”.
So, how can people know what sexual assault is? Educate themselves. It’s as School House Rocky says, because:
Alright, so what sites could help people better under sexual assault? Take a look at the sites below: