Comedy is tragedy that happens to other people.

I'm a 24-year-old Southerner with a BA in English Literary Studies. Femme, bisexual, feminist, and a rape survivor. If you want to know more, check out my About Me or just ask.

Pro-tips for interacting with Rape/Sexual Assault/Sexual Abuse Survivors

Someday I might write a compendium of things not to say to survivor, but today I have simply made a compilation of tumblr posts in one spot for easy reference. This is by no means an exhaustive list; each survivor handles recovery a different way. 

  1. Don’t ask the survivor, “Are you sure it was rape/sexual assault/sexual abuse?” Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to the scrutiny one endures as a survivor? Just for the record, the FBI defines rape as “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration  by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
  2. Don’t ask the survivor what they were wearing or doing that might have “provoked” their attacker. This immediately shifts the blame on us. Who cares if we were drinking? Who cares how we were dressed? You are excusing the behavior of our assailant/rapist/abuser. I guarantee we’ve gone through the experience(s) at least one million times trying to figure out what we could have done differently, anyway. 
  3. Don’t pressure a survivor into sharing the details of their experience. If a survivor wants to share, they will share on their own terms in their own time. Sometimes it is too much to talk about what happened; other times it feels as though you might implode if you don’t let it out. 
  4. Don’t make a qualifying statement about their experience—such as “that wasn’t that bad” or “it could have been worse” or “at least you’re alive!” Those are not the kinds of things we want to hear. You are invalidating our experience and accompanying feelings. Think of the worst thing that has ever happened to you. How would you feel if someone told you it wasn’t that bad? Who are you to adjudicate the suffering of another? 
  5. Don’t chastise someone for identifying as a victim rather than a survivor or for switching between the terms. This is a matter of personal preference, back off.
  6. Don’t chastise a survivor’s decision not to report. Everything isn’t cut and dried if you’re a rape survivor. Sometimes you don’t process what happened to you right away. Sometimes you’re afraid no one will believe you anyway. Sometimes you don’t know them and won’t have information to report. Sometimes you DO know them and you’re terrified of the fallout that comes with reporting. Sometimes the thought of reporting is terrifying because you know everything you’ve ever said, worn, done will be called into question and you can’t endure the emotional turmoil of seeing your character torn to pieces. Unless you’ve been in that situation, you really can’t understand the thought process. You can’t understand the fear of reporting, the guilt of not reporting, the desire for justice that will never come. Please keep your erroneous judgments of survivors to yourself.
  7. Don’t expect the survivor to completely recover quickly—or even at all. There will be good days, there will bad days, there will be in-between days. We might take one step forward and three steps back, we might stagnate for a while, we might even be totally fine. Dealing with the psychological and physical trauma of our experience is an exhausting task that will never end. 
  8. Don’t tell a survivor they are “a better, stronger person” after what happened. You’re right—we are strong, we always have been—but we shouldn’t have had to find out this way. A survivor isn’t always strong, either. As I’ve said above, recovery is a difficult process and sometimes you can’t help but feel broken.
  9. Don’t tell a survivor, “Not all people are evil like that!” We know, thank you, have a nice day. 
  10. Finally—if you ever tell someone their opinion about rape or rape culture is invalidated by their status as a survivor because they are “too close to the issue and won’t think clearly,” I advise you to take a long, hard look in the mirror until you figure out what gives you the right to make such a callous statement.

As I said at the beginning of this post, this is neither an exhaustive list, nor applicable to every survivor.