Abuse affects the dynamics of our communities in many ways. The way we respond to someone that was a victim of abuse can be critical to the survivors healing process. We can help the survivors get the help they need by being good listeners and not blame them for what happened to them. Holding the abusers accountable and the way the media reports on sexual assault.
Helping a Survivor of Sexual Assault
It’s not always easy to know what to say when someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, especially when that person is a family member, friend, or loved one. It can be a very challenging experience when someone discloses a sexual assault; however, knowing how to be supportive can be crucial in a survivor’s healing process. There are two things you need to think about: how you can support the survivor, and how you can take care of yourself.
How You Can Support the Survivor
Always ensure that your friend/loved one is safe.
If your friend is not in a safe place, your first concern should be helping your friend attain safety and security. This may involve talking with campus safety if a collage student , law enforcement, changing locks, staying in another location, changing contact information, etc. It is important that safety is established before healing can occur.
Believe the survivor: Know that revealing this experience takes a great deal of strength and courage. They trust you enough to confide in you. Remember that no one deserves to be assaulted . Remind the survivor that the assault was not their fault. Let the survivor know that you believe them. Abusers often scare victims by telling them that no one will believe them and that its their word against them.
Respect the survivor’s privacy: The survivor made a choice of trust when they came to confide in you. It’s important not to share their story with anyone else unless you have their permission. It is ok if you need to talk about what happened to them in a confidential setting with your own counselor, but their story should never be shared with other people without their consent.
Help them understand their options: As a friend, you can help a survivor process all of their choices. There are many things a survivor may want to think about: seeking counseling, obtaining medical attention, preserving evidence, or reporting to the police and/or the university.
Respect their decisions: You can provide information and options for the survivor, but always let the survivor make their own decisions. Sexual assault often makes a survivor feel disempowered, and out of control. It’s important to help a survivor restore their sense of control over what happens to them. Ask how you can help, offer to go with them to whatever resources they want to seek out. Support the decisions the survivor makes, even if you might not agree with them.
We can lead change by rejecting Rape Culture
What is Rape Culture?
Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.
Examples of Rape Culture
- Blaming the victim (“She asked for it!”)
- Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)
- Sexually explicit jokes
- Tolerance of sexual harassment
- Inflating false rape report statistics
- Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history
- Gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television
- Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
- Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
- Pressure on men to “score”
- Pressure on women to not appear “cold”
- Assuming only promiscuous women get raped
- Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get raped
- Refusing to take rape accusations seriously
- Teaching women to avoid getting raped
One reason people blame a victim is to distance themselves from an unpleasant occurrence and thereby confirm their own invulnerability to the risk. By labeling or accusing the victim, others can see the victim as different from themselves. People reassure themselves by thinking, "Because I am not like her, because I do not do that, this would never happen to me." We need to help people understand that this is not a helpful reaction.
Why Is It Dangerous?
Victim-blaming attitudes marginalize the victim/survivor and make it harder to come forward and report the abuse. If the survivor knows that you or society blames her for the abuse, s/he will not feel safe or comfortable coming forward and talking to you.
Victim-blaming attitudes also reinforce what the abuser has been saying all along; that it is the victim’s fault this is happening. It is NOT the victim’s fault or responsibility to fix the situation; it is the abuser’s choice. By engaging in victim-blaming attitudes, society allows the abuser to perpetrate relationship abuse or sexual assault while avoiding accountability for his/her actions.
Example of Rape culture in the Media