Things Not to Say to a Survivor of Sexual Assault

Originally posted at Learn.Love.Live.


I found the following article at a HopeForHealing.Org. It amazes me how many of these exact statements I have heard from my friends & family. I know they did not mean to belittle what happened to me, they just were uneducated. So in an effort to educate everyone, please read this & share it with your friends & family. Chances are you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, they just may not have told you.

Please don’t…

1. Ask if we liked it.
No one likes being physically overpowered.

2. Tell us “it’s just sex”.
Rape is a crime of power, control, and extreme violence where sex is used as a weapon against someone weaker. It is not sex.

3. Tell us how we could have avoided it.
Believe me, if we could have prevented it we would have.

4. Make fun of us.
We have faced an attacker who sometimes is willing to kill and have survived. What’s there to make fun of?

5. Tell us it would never happen to you and why.
We didn’t think we would become statistics either.

6. There’s no need to avoid us.
We’re still the same person you’ve come to care about or learned to care about. We’ve just been unspeakably hurt. We’re not contagious.

7. Please don’t treat us like we have the plague.
Chances are we don’t. Do you?

8. God isn’t punishing us for some misdeed by allowing this to happen.
God helps us heal. He doesn’t send someone to hurt His people.

9. Don’t tell us it was God’s will we were raped.
Do tell us it was God’s will that we survived!

10. Don’t disbelieve us.
According to survey respondents being disbelieved is a survivor’s greatest fear.

11. Don’t tell us that survivors make up tales for attention.
According to The National Coalition Against Sexual Assault false rape reports only happen 2% of the time. That’s a 98% chance that no matter how strange it sounds to you the rape isn’t being fabricated.

12. Don’t tell me not to talk about it.
Yes it upsets me to talk about it but that is the only way that I can sort through it.

13. Don’t say, ‘it happened on a date, that’s common”.
When you say that it belittles me and my feelings about the assault. It’s not common because it happened to me and I’m not a statistic.

14. Don’t say “other people have it worse off than you”.
I’m not “other people.”  I’m me.

Some other suggestions for Partners of Survivors that may help:

15. Don’t feel you need to retaliate against our attacker.
We know the perpetrator is capable of violence. Please don’t make us worry about you being hurt. We’ll feel more secure knowing you’ll remain in one piece.

16. Don’t blame us for what happened.
It’s not our fault.

17. Don’t tell us to “get over it”.
We would if we could and we are trying our best. Support us as we struggle to find our way again.

18. Don’t tell us to to put what happened out of our minds.
It’s not that simple.

19. Don’t tell us “it’s no big deal”.
Rape is an enormous challenge to heal from. It haunts even our dreams.

20. Try to understand our need to feel safe.
If we disagree about safety issues in the future please realize that what may sounds strange to you may help us feel safe.

21. Don’t say something like, “Well, it’s been six months (a year, 5 years, 20 years, etc.) and ask if we’re “over it” yet.
Chances are that we may not be ready to go back to life as it was. We may never be ready and may have to create a new life for ourselves as we learn to be safe again.

22. Don’t tell us we are weak because it impacts our life.
We are stronger than words can describe.

23. Don’t ask us what you are supposed to do to get past what happened to us.
We aren’t sure what we’re going to do.

24. Don’t ask us if we did anything on purpose that led to the rape.
We didn’t do anything except survive.

25. Don’t ask us if we couldn’t have done something differently during the attack.
We made the best choices we could to survive. We got away without being killed didn’t we? That’s proof our instincts were right. Please help us learn to realize that ourselves.

26. Don’t tell us that it’s not rape because we knew the attacker.
Numerous studies tell us that our perpetrators are more likely to be known to us than unknown.

27. If you give us a hug and we pull away please know that chances are we’re not rejecting you, we’re just uncomfortable.
We may have a hard time being able to respond right now.

28. If we do pull away from you please don’t get mad. Tell us you care.
Chances are you’ll get that hug after all!

29. If you’re together and the survivor has a flashback try not to be mad at the survivor.
We hate the darned things too! Flashbacks are always rough. It’s difficult to know what to do. It’s got to be difficult to watch. Any anger should go the one who caused the rape and not the survivor who has to put her life together.

30. Don’t be afraid to talk to us if we’re upset.
Knowing you are there may be just what we need.

31. If we become suicidal please don’t take that as a sign of weakness.
Take that as a sign we’re overwhelmed, trying to cope, and need help.

32. Don’t pretend rape doesn’t happen to people you know.
It does. Thank you for reading this to learn about it.

33. Don’t get the idea rape just happens to “those” kinds of people.
This crime happens to as many as 1 woman in 4. It crosses ethinc, racial, economic and social boundaries.

34. Don’t be afraid of a person who was raped.
I promise as a survivor, the rape will effect you but won’t rub off on you. The person you love is still the same person as before.

35. Don’t deny your feelings after finding out a friend was raped.
Call a rape crisis center’s hotline and find out what support is available for you.

36. Do not tell us we should take it as a compliment.
Rape isnt about lust or attractiveness, its an act of power and force.

37. Do not tell us “Oh yeah, I know a bunch of girls who’ve been raped”.
We realize we aren’t the only ones but by saying that it belittles how it hurts by making it just another number.

38. Do not tell a survivor “Its no big deal.”
We know otherwise.

39. Please don’t tell us “Oh well, you’ll have other dates that will go better.”
What happened wasn’t a bad date, it was a crime.


~ by After Silence on August 27, 2009.

7 Responses to “Things Not to Say to a Survivor of Sexual Assault”

  1. […] Things Not to Say to a Survivor of Sexual Assault How Do I Help? Tips for Friends and Family of Sexual Assault Survivors […]

  2. […] There’s a great list at After Silence of “Things not to Say to a Survivor.” It doesn’t cover […]

  3. It is hard to believe that people say things like this but they DO! Thanks for posting this necessary information. You are doing such a great and worthy work here!

  4. Thanks for sharing this; the list is a very helpful resource to which one can refer one’s partner, families and caring friends. For those of us who are adult survivors of CSA (and particularly those of us dealing with repressed memories), it can be challenging beyond measure to try and convey the horror and surreal sense of one’s reality shifting and morphing. And people who haven’t been through the recovered memory process, even if they are compassionate and want to help, truly cannot fully understand the surrealism and horror. For those who want to have an insight into the mind of someone grappling with memories of this type, I recommend “Blood Memories” by Greg Iles.

  5. “Oh get over it and move on”…Has to be one of the most hurtful statements to say to a victim of such horror! people have no idea what it really takes and the fallout is felt for a lifetime. I wlll be 50 years old in Feb 2010….. still healing.

  6. Thanks for showing this. Its been like 25 years since the last incident occured when I was raped. I was 10 the last time it happened but I still get flashbacks when I sleep. I wake up sometimes I even cry out.
    There is some of it I have been able to face. Assalt happened fairly regular as a kid. Some of it I have (with God’s help) been able to face. Some of it, I’m too terrified to go there.

  7. I just discovered two of my children, aged 40 and 38, were incestuous from the age of 6 to 13. My son is 2 years older. It is now ripping me apart. My daughter does not want to see my son, and I cannot reject him. They were children when this happened. She now does not want me to see him. I received this email from her this morning: “Jose’s party is a special, once in a lifetime event and you chose to invite Patrick. In your effort to support Patrick and not to exclude him from family events, you have alienated me. By continuing to support him, you have pushed me away. Now that I have a daughter I can honestly say that if a family member ever did to her, what he did to me, I would kill him. Whether it was today or twenty five years ago.”

    I need to know how to help her. What do I do?

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