April is Sexual Assault Awareness month which is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault and to help educate people on the topic.
As a survivor of sexual assault, I strive to share my story as a way to help spread awareness to others. So it’s important to help others learn how to react, help, respond, and help other survivors to feel less alone. Because of that, I am going to share some comments and questions that I have heard or been asked as a survivor that remarks that should be kept to yourself as they can be triggering to a survivor of sexual assault.
1. “It could have been worse.”
Any form of sexual assault is traumatic and valid. We shouldn’t minimize any victim by comparing it to another person’s assault. So this comment could possibly deter a victim to seek proper help or make them regret opening up about their assault.
2. “Everything happens for a reason.”
Excuse me? When someone said this to me I stood there shocked and in disbelief! How could there be any acceptable reason why someone was sexually assaulted? Nobody deserves to be sexually assaulted. This comment can make a victim blame themselves or look for the reasoning behind why they were assaulted even though the only person at fault is the perpetrators that act in these crimes.
3. “Why didn’t you tell anyone or report it right away?”
There are many reasons why a victim may not come forward or seek help. I stayed silent for so long because my attacker threatened things that meant the most to me such as my family, future, and life. Reporting a sexual assault is a very difficult process that can oftentimes cause added-on trauma. Dealing with the legal process after a sexual assault was very traumatic for me. If a victim chooses not to report their assault that does mean that it never happened and you should never doubt them or blame them.
4. “What were you wearing?”
This is a phrase that should never ever be asked. This puts blame on the victim and makes it sound like their attack was their fault. No matter what a victim was wearing is no excuse to be sexually assaulted.
5. “But that happened so long ago/just move on.”
Time does not heal trauma. A victim has to live with this their entire life. It doesn’t matter how much time passes for a victim, their assault will always be a part of them. There are many fears and feelings a survivor will forever feel.
6. “It’s finally over.”
The first time I heard this I thought for a minute. What does this mean? As I thought about it, I realized no it’s not over. In fact, it’ll never be over. I’m not being raped anymore, but these scars will always show. And the words will always stay, and this body will always be a body that was raped. I will also live with this my whole life. PTSD from sexual assault is a double punishment. If your body was violated, then your mind will never allow it to heal or forget.
When a survivor confides in you or comes forward just be there for them. So listen to them, believe them, and support them without doubting or making comments like these as they can be very triggering.