The society we live in today, as unfortunate as it is. Is a rape culture society. A society where kids and adults use the word "rape" jokingly and don't take the topic seriously. One in four women and one and six men are sexually assaulted by the time their 18 years old. What many people don't understand, is just how hard it is to open up about it. When someone does, you may wonder, What do you do? How do you help? What do you say?
There will always be things that survivors are, or are not comfortable opening up about. Regardless, to anyone, there will always be "harmless" comments that are actually hurting these survivors.
I'll be the first to admit, I was that girl. When I was 16 years old. I never told my mother. After numerous people told me, "It was probably your fault," "You deserved it," "You're probably lying," you tend to go numb. Although I am stronger now and made it a platform to educate and help others-many others cannot say the same, and will be affected by it for their entire lives.
So, please, when your friend, neighbor, roommate, classmate or anyone else opens up to you about her assault, please, watch what you say.
1. Believe them.
Only 3% of rape accusations are fake according to some data. With courage and pride, it takes a lot to tell someone about a sexual assault or abuse — please. Believe the person.
2.Don't criticize the actions leading up to the assault.
Don't ask what they were wearing. Don't ask who it was. Don't judge them.
3. "You should have reported it!"
Sixty-eight percent of rapes go unreported according to some studies. Even when reported, it is rare that the rapist will serve prison time. For many, whether it be due to knowing therapist or not wanting to harm another person, after an assault, you're likely not.
4. Don't tell us to get over it-
Everyone heals differently. My healing process may be a week or two, yours may be a day, and that girls' from bio could be two years. Trauma heals differently. Let everyone heal how they need to.
5. Don't compare stories.
"At least you weren't raped at a party, it was your boyfriend/friend." Absolutely not. It's a given, don't be a bitch and one-up someone opening up to you.
6. Don't ask why I'm so "OK talking about it."
Again, everyone is different. One person's ability to calmly discuss and help others is not going to be everyone's case. Many will not heal quickly, some ever.
7. Don't ask me why I've put off hanging out with you for awhile.
I may have healed, and I may be okay and have had relationships since. But, that doesn't mean I won't be hesitant.
8. Don't catcall me.
This is traumatic for anyone. But for survivors who may have been raped or assaulted at a party or bar, this could bring up memories.
9. You were married/dating, it doesn't count.
It just doesn't work that way. Rape is rape. In any situation.
10. "You've done bad things too"
Yeah, you're right. I have. But nothing even close to sexually assaulting someone.
11. "You've slept with other people though? It must not be that bad..."
You have to heal, you're going to end up fine. This one is just bitchy.
So, what can you say? How can you help? It's easy. Here are some things you can, and frankly should say to a survivor
"This wasn't your fault."
"I believe you."
"What do you need? How can I help?"
"You can talk to me when you're ready"
Overall, nothing can help someone heal at a faster pace. Again, everyone is different. While some girls may never shed a tear about it and use their story to help others, some may never fully heal. So understand that there isn't a magic fix. Support from someone they know is there for them could be the best thing at this moment. Finally, remember that no matter how terrible you feel about it, just know the individual that experienced it feels much worse.
If you or someone you know is or has been affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.