Unless you are a victim of sexual abuse, assault, or harassment you may have no idea what to say to a survivor or if you should say anything at all.
You may have a friend that just posted “Me too” to their social sites.
Or recently a dear friend stirred up the courage to tell you over dinner and you just weren’t sure what to say. You just sipped your drink and didn’t say anything because you doubted yourself or you had doubts of the story or your friend. Or maybe you put that glass down, picked up your finger and pointed. Then you said some things, not good or helpful things.
If a friend has not confided in you about her (or his) sexual assault or harassment that does not mean they haven’t suffered. Every 1.5 minutes someone is assaulted. The stats are everywhere. If you aren’t up on this check out rainn.org.
Sexual violence may be on the down slope compared to two decades ago, but it is not even close to being eradicated. And our friends need us. Even if we have been victims ourselves, speaking words of life and support can be the very thing we need to get back on our own feet. If it is true for them, it is true for you too.
RAINN.org recommends that we say these things to a survivor:
- I believe you./It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.
- It’s not your fault./You didn’t do anything to deserve this.
- You are not alone./I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.
- I’m sorry this happened./This shouldn’t have happened to you.
I want to focus for a second on the very last one. “This shouldn’t have happened to you.”
One of my favorite forever friends once shared her horrifying story of date rape. I was shocked when part of her story included a woman in her life placing the burden of responsibility on my friend. Let me tell you. While my dear friend is one of the most reserved, cautious and conservative women in America, even if she had decided to wear a bikini on her date that night (she did not) she was not asking for that monster to drug her drink and render her unable to make decisions or even walk before taking her back to his place and doing what predators do.
This should NOT have happened to her! Sexual assault and harassment should happen to no one. ever.
When your friend shares their story with you…
Stick to the list. “I believe you.”
Stick to the list. “It’s not your fault.”
Stick to the list. “You are not alone.”
Stick to the list. “I’m sorry this happened.”
Our friends need us!