Crisis Overnight: 10 Things Not To Survivors of Sexual Assault and What to say Instead
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This is the fourth in a series of Crisis Overnight posts. Our goal is to raise $150K to save the Community Crisis Center of Elgin, Illinois from having to close. Personal stories are shared at the discretion of the individuals involved. Any stories where anonymity is requested will be honored.
You can follow or participate in our story on Twitter with the hashtag: #crisisovernight.
1. Nothing I can say or do will help
Yes, it can! Allow, but don’t force him/her to talk about it or to express his/her feelings. Listen without criticism, judgement, or condemnation. Patience and love heal many wounds.
2. It’s better not to talk about it
Talking about stressful events speeds up recovery, if people are allowed to talk at their own pace. Let him/her know that you’re willing to listen when he/she is ready.
3. Going to the police or court will just make it worse
Although painful, reporting and testifying can actually help people recover. These actions may also get the rapist off the street.
4. I’ll kill the guy who did this to you
While anger is a natural reaction, it can be very harmful. The victim, who has faced one perpetrator who was out of control, must now try and calm down another person to avoid more violence.
5. Why didn’t you fight?
Freezing is a natural response to being attacked. One must use his/her instincts to survive and since they did survive, they did the right thing. Remember, submission is not consent.
6. What’s the big deal?
Sexual assault is a very big deal for many reasons. It can totally upset a person’s belief that the world is a safe place; that he/she is control of their body, and that they know whom to trust. Rape is a life-threatening act, not sex.
7. When you fall of horse, you have to jump right back on
This may true of some fears, but it does not apply to resuming sexual activity after a sexual assault. Let the victim decide if and when they are ready for an intimate relationship.
8. Why can’t you just forget about it?
Forgetting is not healthy, helpful or often possible. The reminders are constant: sexual activity, interactions with the opposite sex (or same sex, if perpetrator was same sex) street harassment, being in vulnerable positions, news stories and media and pornography may all be reminders. Smells, sounds, furniture, anything that was present during the assault can create triggers (or memories) of the assault. Only the survivor can know what triggers memories of an assault.
9. What are you afraid of me for? I didn’t do it.
Rape and incest often make the victim fear some or many things. Other people often fall into that category. An assault may cause confusion about the relationship between sex and intimacy. Survivors may need to exert and feel more control in a relationship than prior to the assault.
10. Only crazy people need therapy.
Some experiences, like rape, are traumatic for virtually anyone, no matter how well adjusted they are. Rape crisis counseling is very important for recovery. Without it, the victim often continues to relive the assault and the assault controls their life.