Five Things to Never Say to Someone Who Was Molested or Raped
It can feel like being victimized all over again. It can be devastating if those you expected to support you really screw this part up.
Thankfully, my husband has been stellar. But some others? Not so much. My husband reminds me that there are some people who routinely make the wrong choice in an otherwise clear cut situation. In short, if you know someone who was sexually molested as a child or raped and they finally speak out as an adult about their trauma, you always, always, always, always support them.
You always say, “I believe you, and I am so sorry this happened to you. Is there anything I can do to help?”
It seems like one would never have to say what you don’t do. But I have lived through those dashed expectations. So, here they are.
- Don’t tell the victim you didn’t think they needed you to verbalize support when they went public with what happened, because, after all, you knew about what happened and thought that would suffice, especially since it happened so long ago.
- Don’t suggest that it happened years ago so PTSD or any other life-altering ramifications simply had an expiration date. Don’t tell them you think it is time to get over it. Don’t consider yourself the judge-and-jury and ask questions like, were you forced? Did he/she have a weapon? Did you tell anyone? Might you be remembering it differently than it actually happened? Why didn’t you tell me?
- Don’t tell a grown victim that you had a similar experience when no two experiences are the same–and you are really trying to get them to realize that what happened to them is small potatoes.
- Don’t tell them you have a different memory of that period of life, different data points…yes, that is pretty insensitive, especially if you didn’t live in the house where the events occurred or you were about 24 months old when the victim was molested while visiting a friend’s house.
- Don’t form a gossiping posse in the family. You will make the victim feel more marginalized. Good luck trying to pull that relationship out of the ditch.
In short, believe the family member or friend. Realize that the aftermath of trauma doesn’t have an expiration date. This person needs love, the real, I-will-not-gossip-or-judge-whether-your-experience-merits-this-response kind of love. Realize that, statistically, one in four girls is sexually molested in childhood and one in six boys is sexually molested in childhood. For that matter, one in five women is raped…classic, Hollywood movie type rape, date rape, somebody-you-know rape, or even a spousal rape. Your friend or family member, based on the statistics, is probably being totally honest. Oh, and 80% of victims experience PTSD or delayed onset PTSD. It is real. If life intruded at the time and they were busy raising a family or just trying to keep moving forward, it might take them decades to face the trauma.
Don’t ask them why they write a blog about the trauma if the whole thing has traumatized them so much and they aren’t interested in fielding your call so you can pepper them with the above questions.. Here is the answer to the public blog question… the blog routinely gets 500 hits by people who have probably experienced molestation/rape or know someone who has. Perhaps there might be some healing for another who stumbles upon this blog. And that makes it worth it. No kidding, 500 people every day coming to the blog. Worth. It.
Read the Department of Justice definition of sexual assault and rape. It no longer is centered solely on force. It takes into account consent and the ability to give consent.
No child and no adult who is sleeping, has been drinking, or is otherwise incapacitated is able to give consent.
Don’t be a misinformed jerk.
A bruised reed He will not break.
Can you guess who said that?