What You Should Never Say to a Survivor of Sexual Assault

Hello, and welcome to the HMC Advocates Blog!

I thought I would start off by sharing some key points from an article I found online from everydayfeminism.com, 7 Things We Need To Stop Saying to Sexual Assault Survivors Immediately. I think this article does a good job of pointing out some things that people might hear a lot from those in their lives who are trying to be helpful, but only do a lot more damage.

In case you are too lazy to click the link, those points are listed below, with some added comments from yours truly.

1. ‘What Were You Wearing?’ Everyone has the right to wear what they’d like to wear without being afraid of being taken advantage of. If you ask someone what they were wearing after being assaulted, YOU ARE NOT HELPING.  

2.  ‘You Shouldn’t Have Been Drinking.’ Once again, it is never anyone’s fault if they are raped, no matter how intoxicated they are.

3. ‘But They’re Your Partner – That’s Not Rape, That’s Sex.’  This is a common misconception. Rape can occur whether or not a person is in a committed relationship with the perpetrator. This article points out that in 73% of rape cases, the rapist is known to the survivor: Any unwanted sexual contact is assault, no matter who is perpetrating it.

4. ‘You Should Have Reported It.’ Reporting sexual assault can be a mentally strenuous process, and can make a survivor’s experience even more difficult. It is a survivor’s own decision whether or not to report their assault. What you can and should do as a friend is to support them in whatever decision they make.

5. ‘Why Didn’t You Fight Back Harder?’ No, just.. no!  Once again, it is never the survivor’s fault that they have been sexually assaulted. And in some rape cases, a survivor may be incapacitated and unable to respond to the situation.

6. ‘Are You Sure You Don’t Just Regret Having Sex with Them?’ If a survivor has worked up the courage to tell you that they have been assaulted, chances are slim that they are lying to you. The bottom line is, that if someone didn’t consent to sex, it is rape. False allegations are extremely rare.

7. ‘But You’re a Guy – You Can’t Be Raped.’ This idea is completely false. Sexual violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender identity. Men are even less likely to report sexual assault and rape, perhaps due to myths and stereotypes such as this one.

Whether or not you knew the above facts already, I hope that you learned something from this article about how strong simple language can be. And if you ever have a question about how to talk to someone who has disclosed to you (or any other questions about sexual assault and survivor advocacy), feel free to post an anonymous question in our Question Box.

The advocates are ramping up for the 2014-2015 year, where we plan to have a bigger presence on campus. Please keep an eye out for Consent Week events and other discussions we will be hosting.

Thanks for reading! I hope you are enjoying your summer.