I don't know if there's already something on this platform like this but ngl there's a scary lack of acknowledgment for sexual violence.
Sexual violence is more than just a "women's problem." Men, both gay and straight, can become victims of sexual violence. It can happen to anyone. Rape is mostly a crime that's committed against women by men and the threat of it can create mistrust and become a barrier for the formation of healthy relationships between men and women. Sexual assault affects us all, even people that aren't survivors.
I expect people to respond to this post and get angry saying that "not all men are rapists" which is so obvious!! Most men are definitely NOT rapists. It's the PEOPLE who are rapists, not just male offenders.
During sex, consent can be revoked at any time. There is never any scenario where anyone ever "owes" anyone sexual favors. People who don't come forward about sexual assault aren't "wusses", they're afraid of the rejection that they most often do face when they come forward. They're afraid of being blamed for something so vile that only their rapist can be blamed for. Sexual assault false accusations are RARE, and it's wrong to assume everyone who makes an accusation is a liar. The clothing someone wears doesn't mean they want sex and definitely doesn't mean they owe you sex.
Sexual assault isn't something to brush under the rug. It's a serious crime with incredibly harmful consequences. There is never any excuse for sexual assault.
When a friend comes to you and tells you that they've been sexually assaulted, it can be hard to know what to say or how to respond. It takes a lot of courage for a survivor to share their story with someone. Though sometimes when someone confides in us, we're stalled and don't how to help. It doesn't require an expert to support a survivor.
When a survivor trusts you enough to help and support them, it's important that you make sure to help them rather than cause harm or additional stress. To be on the safe side, here are the absolute DO NOTS for survivor support.
Pressure them into doing things. While it's great to help and support your friend, it's important that they're not pressured into doing anything they're not comfortable with. Additionally, sexual assault strips the power from a survivor and makes them feel as though they're not allowed to decide for themselves. It's important that you allow them to make the decisions for themselves so they can regain power.
Ask them "Why?" or make them share details. It's important to keep an open mind when, if they do, share their story with you. It's common for survivors to leave details out or repeat themselves; it's tough to revisit. Pressuring them into sharing additional details might make them feel like they're being forced to share quite possibly, painful, details. Asking them why will seem as though they're being blamed for what happened. Whether it be asking them why they wore what they wore or why they had a drink.
Murmur or say nothing. Not knowing what to say is completely fine; it can be shocking to know what happened to your friend. But, they need support and it could make them worry about what you think.
If you don't know what to say try something similar that offers more:
"I don't know what to say at the moment. I cannot begin to understand how you feel. But, I'm here for you and want to help you. If there's anything I can do to support you, please ask."
Some DON'T Phrases:
"I can' believe that."
"They[Perpetrator] seemed so nice, I don't believe they could do such a thing!"
"Did you try to stop them?"
"Why are you only coming forward now?"
"Why didn't you go to the police?"
So, we've covered what you shouldn't do to support a survivor but what about what you should do?
Tell them you believe them and support them. One of the biggest fears many survivors have is the fear of being rejected, blamed, or people not believing their stories. Telling your friend that you believe them and they can rely on you as an ongoing source of support will help them tremendously.
Ask what you can do to support them. When a survivor is sexually assaulted, their power is stripped from them and their right to choose is suddenly gone. Allowing your friend to decide what's next is important for not only recovery but also for allowing them to know that they have power in their own life. Additionally, allowing them to decide things at their own pace helps them be more comfortable without added stress.
DO encourage them to seek medical attention if it was recent. You shouldn't pressure your friend into getting any treatments or counseling but, you should encourage your friend to seek medical attention. ER doctors can do what's commonly called rape kits to test for physical damage, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy possibilities. Additionally, if they do choose to press charges in the future, the case is typically stronger if they have physical evidence.
Keep an open mind and let them choose the pace. If a survivor does choose to share their story with you, it's important to keep an open mind and remind them that you'll support them. It's common for survivors to revisit moments while telling their story or skip around. Let them share at their own speed. There is no "perfect victim" and it's essential that you understand that many victims don't immediately recover, it takes time; some longer than others.
Be a source of support even after they begin to recover. Sexual assault can take a large psychological toll on survivors. Many of them carry trauma and some suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD). It's important to remind a survivor that you'll be there for them even after their bruises fade. Once they begin to recover, if they're too exhausted to look into counseling, you could kindly offer to look into trauma-specialized therapists.
Take care of yourself. While it might sound odd to say that you should take care of yourself, it's very important that you do so. Taking care of a friend or even just being an additional source of support can take an emotional toll on some allies. Sometimes, it reminds caretakers of past trauma or can cause a sort of secondary trauma from helping a friend. Don't neglect yourself!
Educate Yourself. It's never the responsibility of a survivor to educate you on how you can be helpful and it'd be a good idea to know the possible impact sexual assault can have on survivors. Informing yourself on sexual assault effects can help you improve as a support beacon.
RAINN(Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) has many resources you can read and also a section on post-abuse recovery.
Understanding trauma triggers and how some survivors disassociate.
Avoidance of touching or sexual interactions. It's common for survivors to feel uncomfortable with either touch or sexual interactions. Not wanting to revisit specific actions or sex altogether.
The Joyful Heart Foundation also has many resources on the effects of sexual abuse. joyfulheartfoundation.org/learn
Knowing your Resources. It's important to know the resources you have, both locally and nationally. You can find more resources on our crisis support page.
"I believe you."
"What happened isn't your fault."
"The only person to blame is __(the person who did this)."
"What happened was consensual, it was abuse."
"It doesn't matter if you did or didn't ___. It's not your fault."
"Choosing to ___ doesn't mean you chose this."
"Don't feel pressured into reporting. No matter what you do, I'll be here for you. Okay?"
P.S. Denim Day 2022 is on April 29! If you don't know what Denim Day is, it's a campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault. denimdayinfo.org
P.P.S. I can already see the comments I'm gonna get about being a "raging feminist" or something else 🥱😒