Sexual trauma and domestic violence
On November/December’s edition of The Carolinian, we discuss some heavy topics. I would like to continue one of those topics with monthly updates on statistics, facts, and useful information related to the subject. Today, I want to go over some “Do’s and Don’ts” regarding what to say to someone who has experienced sexual abuse, trauma, and domestic violence. You can read more in depth at https://www.rainn.org/articles/tips-talking-survivors-sexual-assault.
According to RAINN, these are some things we can say in support of survivors:
“I believe you. / It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.”
For a survivor, it can be extremely difficult to feel comfortable and ready to disclose what happened. As the listener, be supportive. Let them know that you believe them and that you care about what they are telling you. It is a serious thing to be told so treat the person kindly and with respect.
2. “It’s not your fault. / You didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
Sometimes, people may think what happened was their fault or that they could have avoided or stopped it. The truth is, however, they shouldn’t have had to. Let them know it is not their fault and that it simply should have never happened. Nobody deserves to go through that and nobody has the right to put anyone through it either.
3. “You are not alone. / I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.”
Let them know that you are there for them. Provide recourses if you can. Stand by them and support their decisions moving forward. They are not alone but respect their wishes to keep it a private manner or not. They need someone they can trust. Unless you see the situation is life threatening, allow them to tell whom they feel comfortable telling.
4. “I’m sorry this happened. / This shouldn’t have happened to you.”
There is no excuse for hurting anyone. Let them know that there is no good reason this happened.
1. Judge their situation-
Don’t make them feel like they provoked the assault or violence. It’s not about what you wear or what time of night you were out, there shouldn’t have to be a reason to walk accompanied or armed. Respect should not have to be defended.
2. Don’t rush a survivor-
The healing process varies for everyone and there’s no set time that anyone should be “healed” by. Trauma is something that needs to be worked throug. Avoid things such as,
1. “get over it”
2. “it wasn’t that bad”
3. “it happened years ago”
4. “it’s time to move on”
5. “Crying won’t help”
3. Don’t question them-
There is no set way to act when these things happen. Some survivors may lash out and become promiscuous while some may experience panic when getting intimate with a partner. Some may engage in dangerous or life threatening activities while some may become secluded and isolated. It is an individual process and everybody copes in different ways. This can be especially concerning if they are not receiving any help or support. But doubting them because their behavior seems unchanged or “worse” now could increase the risk of these behaviors and feelings of loneliness.