9 Insensitive Things You Should Never Say to a Rape Victim
I try to keep this blog light-hearted but a recent event close to home, leaves me distraught. It came out that a boy a couple towns over from me, who has contacted me, and has asked me to do a photoshoot with him, has been assaulting multiple women and forcing them into having sex. Not to mention the countless women he attempted to contact as well or attempted things with. Numerous victims are coming out, speaking up, and no longer feeling alone. As a victim of similar situations, who has never had the courage these women have, I feel mortified by some comments I have seen from fellow humans. So for anyone forgetting to think before they speak, here are some tips.
1. Tell them they should have gone to the police. Cut it out. I highly recommend doing a quick google search and gain knowledge on the psychology of victims. Often, they won't go to the police due to people shaming them, people not believing them, police not doing enough, the justice system not doing enough (i.e. Brock Turner, 3 months), people trying to twist it to be the victims fault, they feel shame/manipulation/emotional distress/shock/disgust/confusion, etc. It is overly common and it is very scary to feel like the only victim. You feel completely alone after an attack. You feel helpless, hopeless, dirty, worthless, confused, lost, shattered, broken, violated, infiltrated, horrible. Unless you have gone through it, don't tell someone how they ~should have handled it. It is not easy and it is not that simple.
2. Insist they are lying or are attention-seeking. Part of the reason people do not come out about their attack right away is because of these types of comments. People will tell friends, family members, police officers, etc and then are made out to be the bad guy. Or told "it must be a mistake", "you must have done something to provoke them", or are not taken seriously at all. Realistically, do people lie about rape? Yes. But it is a RARE occurrence and the statistics are so low where almost anyone you encounter that says they've been raped - has. Do not let a couple bad seeds take away your empathy for victims. When there are multiple women that come forward with similar stories and friends that knew something was off with the rapist, they are not lying. It doesn't make you knowledgeable, smart, different, or right to insist a victim is lying. It's completely rude and more than likely - wrong.
3. Be fooled by the nice guy, or girl, facade of the rapist and defend them because of it. Do you know who was a charming and charismatic man? Ted Bundy. Do you know what he did? Mutilated and raped the corpses of women. A pure psychopath. Did you know people had a hard time believing he was guilty because he appeared nice? There are multiple layers to a person and some layers are dark, sick, and twisted. Just because you don't see it or haven't personally seen it doesn't mean it's not there. They just haven't showed it to you, personally. Don't be those naive people who want to turn a blind eye for their own egos sake.
4. Think that just because it didn't happen to you when you hung out with him doesn't mean it didn't happen to others. Not every person a rapist comes in contact with will be a victim. It all deals with location, opportunity, power, person, and so forth. You should feel lucky it didn't happen to you and have empathy to the ones it did.
5. Mock the fact that they may have received an STD from said perpetrator. Just because someone has an STD does not make them gross and it does not change them as a person. There is such a stigma around STD's when most of the time, with safe practices and medication, they are not an issue and do not interfere with a person's sex life. They have dealt with the feelings of shame where they don't need you reminding them of it. Also - that is the LEAST of the problem. They wouldn't have received it if they hadn't been assaulted. Which should be your main focus.
6. Say, "why is it all coming out now? Why did the victims wait so long if it really happened?" Again, this is something where an understanding of psychology and victim mentality is crucial. Not only psychology but the ability to put yourself in their shoes. When one victim comes forward, it's a domino effect. Strength in numbers, no longer feeling alone. Women supporting other women at a time like this is a wonderful feeling so it allows other victims to come forward when they were never able to before. Statistics are almost always in favor of the rapist so most women never come forward. They go through the motions of filing a report, going to court, being treated like the perpetrator, being accused of lying, and so forth only for the perpetrator to receive minimal time, if any. When you are a victim, your spirit becomes shattered and you feel you have to be silenced because no one will take you seriously. By questioning it, you remind them of why they had trouble coming forward in the first place. Be there for the victims and help allow future victims feel comfortable enough to speak out.
7. Judge whether someone is lying about a rape due to their physical appearance. Saying someone didn't get raped because their appearance isn't "up to your standards" is disgusting, ignorant, and shallow. Rape isn't about looks and it's sick one would even think that way. A victim's looks should NEVER be brought up. Rape is about power and control. It literally doesn't matter if YOU think a VICTIM is attractive. They're a victim. They're not on display for YOU to attempt to exert your control. Have some respect. It sounds extremely moronic and incredibly low.
8. Make jokes. This is pretty basic. Don't be a jerk to someone who has already suffered so severely. It amazes me how much empathy people can lack at times.
9. Say "that's what you get for talking to strangers." Strangers are a part of the real world. We will come across them daily: in a restaurant, at work, on the internet, at the grocery store, at a friends house, at a party. Our coworkers were once strangers, our friends were once strangers, our significant other was once a stranger. If we never talk to strangers, most people would be without friends, a job, and a significant other. When you have mutuals with someone and know people who have worked with someone, you don't give them a psychology exam before meeting them. It's another way to victim blame when I'm sure almost 100% of people talk or have talked to strangers. Statistically, most perpetrators of violence and sexual assault are actually people you know. Women and people in general ~should~ be allowed to partake in talking to strangers. That's not the issue. The actual issue is people need to stop sexually assaulting and raping others. That should be the focus and that's what you should be concerned about.
So for the rape apologists, victim blamers, and skeptics: take a break, reflect on yourself and why you feel so strongly about attempting to discredit a victim, talk to victims, gain some knowledge, and grow a little empathy.
If you are a survivor:
You are strong.
You are courageous.
You are not weak.
You are not dirty.
You are not disgusting.
You are not alone.
You are not worthless.
You will overcome this.
Not easily and not quickly.
But you will.
You are enough.
You are strength.
You got this.
You will prevail.
Like a phoenix,
you will rise from the ashes,
stronger than before.