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4 'Helpful' Things People Say to Rape Survivors (and What They Should Say Instead)

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Being raped was one of the most horrific, difficult things I’ve ever had to experience. Despite this event, there’s something I’ve found to be almost as difficult: admitting I was raped.

• What is PTSD?

There are a lot of things people say to a loved one who was raped. These things are meant to be helpful, but can actually end up making the individual feel worse.

For example:

1. “This will make you stronger. Find the silver lining!”

2. “You won’t heal until you forgive him.”

3. “Be flattered. They wanted you that bad.”

4. “Talk to me. You won’t get better until you talk about it.”

These statements tend to put the pressure on. They may seem like good things to say, but to us, for the most part, they are hard to hear. Some of us can find a silver lining, and some of us can’t. Whether we do or not, we need to get there on our own. We all heal at our own pace. There’s no set timeline.

I know most of you have good intentions, but these statements can make us feel bad. So, that being said, here are some things I recommend saying.

1. “It’s not your fault.”

2. “I believe you.”

3. “I’m here for you.”

4. “What do you need?”

5. “You can talk to me if you want, but if you’re not ready, that’s OK too.”

Overall, please know nothing you say can take away our pain. There’s no magic fix. Just let the individual know you’re there. Please don’t put pressure on them, and make it about your anger or how uncomfortable you are. However awful you feel about it, know the individual that experienced such a horrific act is feeling much worse.

Offer your support and love, and let them heal at their own pace.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

Thinkstock photo via Natasha-R-Graham

Originally published: October 5, 2017
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