Rape and sexual assault are life-changing occurrences. They violate a women’s soul because her essence has been attacked. The effects of the rape can last for many years, sometimes even a lifetime. Survivors may feel isolated and alone, different and unusual. They are none of these. Many women have been sexually assaulted but they do not feel comfortable in publicly discussing it. No matter what circumstance she was assaulted under, it is NEVER her fault and there is no shame attached to it. Her shame is self-designed because of a fear of being judged from you.
Blame statements: Remarks from others, such as, “she asked for it”, “what can you expect if…”, “it happened because you…”, “why did you wear that…” are most unhelpful. They may leave the victim feeling ashamed and humiliated. Remember that the responsibility for rape lies always with the rapist.
If a second hand store displays all of its furniture out the front, and a piece is stolen, it is still theft. If a woman wears a low cut top, short skirt, or walks alone at night and is raped, it is still rape.
Safety Rules: We have it drummed into us to always be careful. This places the responsibility of sexual assault back onto us – if we break the safety rules we deserve what we get. Untrue. There are no guarantees that sexual assault will not occur. Bad things happen to good people. Bad things happen to Nuns, Grandmothers, women in their own home, women sticking to safety rules too. Don’t berate her for breaking any safety rules.
Sexual Assault creates a crisis: People handle crisis in different ways. Some will talk, some will not. Some will isolate, some will want others around. External blame from well meaning people makes the crisis worse. Support is required in a time of crisis, not blame.
Taking action: Some women prefer to cope by doing things. We all have our own ways of coping under stressful situations and many survivors draw their stress coping skills across to survive the rape. They may become task focused and throw themselves into work, or they may become obsessive about getting justice. Either way, action helps these women to recover from their experience. Many people will make major changes in their life following a rape, whereas others will just want to resume their normal activities. Help her, don’t try and talk her out of doing things.
Forgetting: Many people will want to forget what happened. They may ban discussions about it and act as though nothing has occurred. These are the women that are often the most frightened and the most hurt by blame statements from so-called supportive friends and family. Respect her decision and DO NOT blame her or call her crazy.
Confusion: The person who has been raped is thrown into confusion. They may have difficulty making decisions or solving problems. While everyone else may be pressuring for legal decisions, the victim may need a little time to think. She has so many things on her mind and she needs time-out for self-care. Create that time for her. Create some additional comforts, perhaps making her house safer, stocking the fridge with her favorite chocolate or allow her to spend time with the people she wants to be with.
Rape is never the fault of the victim. The best thing you can do to help the recovery process is to not judge or blame the victim. Watch your language, your tone and your body reactions. If you’re shocked and hurt by what happened, how do you think the woman who has been raped is feeling? She needs your support in a way that is most helpful to her, not to you.
October is Sexual Violence Awareness Month. Some related topics to this months focus:
My FAVORITE child focused article of the day: Amish School Shooting: Yet Another Wave of Violence in our Schools by Kaye Siders.