If someone trusts you enough to bravely confide in you about a sexual assault, your reaction matters.
I’ve been sickened in recent days, witnessing the great divide in our country, as well as some incredibly callous responses to women who’ve chosen to come forward about crimes done to them.
We can learn from these days. How we treat people always has and always will matter. This is not a political post. This is a post reminding people to tap into the dignity of what it means to be human—thoughtful beings on this earth.
I’ve gleaned the following from articles and from trying to live as empathetic and nonjudgmental life as possible.
Suggestions for When Someone Chooses to Share Their Abuse with You
- Listen. In our share-all-opinions culture it may feel tempting to spout off the first thing that comes to mind. A story about your niece being attacked. Your opinion of the current President. Even linking their story to recent news stories. Don’t. Sit quietly and listen.
- Don’t Question. Do not question whether they are telling the truth. And please, don’t ask “blaming” questions, i.e. what were you wearing, why were you out so late…? You are not the police. You are a safe person they chose to tell.
- Acknowledge. That you see them. Look them in the eye (as comfortable for them). Assure them that you hear them.
- Refrain from Judging. Validate their experience. Mentally put yourself in their shoes, but know you will never fully understand what it is to be them, to have gone through what they did.
- Don’t Try to Fix Things. You cannot fix it. You will want to. You’ll be tempted to find ways to make it better for them, searching for words that will help. Kind and loving words may help, but you cannot fix the past.
- Don’t Avoid Them. They chose you and this moment. Please don’t brush them off, avoid the topic, make light of what they’ve shared, or send them to someone else. You’re it. I can’t state this enough: how you react matters to them.
- Support. Offer to report the offense together. Make it clear that you will remain a steady support.
- Keep Confidences. But if they’re not ready to share the offense with anyone else, keep what they’ve shared safe. Do not gossip about what they’ve told you. This is their truth and they’ve trusted you with it. Prove to them that you’re trustworthy.
- Share a Glimpse of Hope. During a low time in my life I heard the acronym for H.O.P.E. Hang. On. Pain. Ends. In as loving a way as possible, extend a seed of hope. Pain feels excruciating and hovers near unbearable at times. They will get through this. They will work through healing.
If I’m being fully transparent, I wanted to spend the past few days lighting a holy fire into some of the heartless things I encountered on social media. Insensitivity. Light it up. Chauvinist ideology. Light it up. Divisiveness. Light it up. Misguided ignorance. Fan the flames.
But I decided to spend my time privately reaching out to, thinking about, praying for, and investing in those I thought might be re-traumatized by recent events in the news. I let my healing friends know how much I love them.
We have a lot of choices to make about how we spend our short time here on earth. I devoted my time in recent days to speaking love into the lives of some of the bravest women I know.