8 Things You Should Never Say To A Sexual Assault Survivor

Shiralie Chaturvedi | November 09, 2017 17:12 IST

Every day when you pick up the newspaper, or switch on the news, or simply browse the internet; there is legitimately only one kind of news that takes centre stage -that of sexual abuse, of sexual assault. Every time you feel there is an information overload and if this is the only thing of consequence in the world you are hit with a fresh innings of a slew of assaults across the globe (literally). Whether it is at the hands of a relative, a partner, a friend, a stranger -the jolt is tremendous

1. What were you wearing? What were you doing? What time was this again?
The biggest disservice that you could do at this point would be to insinuate it was his/ her /their fault. Nothing that they could be doing should have resulted in an assault on their body. If they were in a skirt, or if they were at a club, or if this happened at the wee hours of morning; their personal choice could never have reflected that they were going to be ok with anyone touching them in a way they didn't want to be touched.


2. It could have been worse
We understand that when you are saying this you are saying it out of sheer concern that they might have dodged a proverbial bullet, however that isn't what is being implied at all. What this sentence actually implies is that what the survivor has gone through is technically of less significance which we have no right to say. So don't tell them that this could have been worse.

3. You should report it
If anything we know that if as friends and acquaintances we can slip up with respect to our concern, a lot of strangers might definitely too. Moreover the survivor doesn't owe it to anybody to tell anyone they don't want to. So don't force them to report it unless they are sure they want to. Many-a-times filing a report might prove to be counterproductive compounding the stigma the survivor is already suffering through.

4. You should have been more careful
Again, there is no space in a conversation with an assault survivor that is pitting the blame on them. Plus there is a very good chance that the survivor is blaming themselves over this anyway so a third person opinion might validate their insecurity. They wouldn't have done anything in any way to endanger their sense of self quite this way, and you should trust them with that.


5. Don't overthink it
 Sexual assault is an event that is scarring to your body and soul, but it is such an attack to your independence and your confidence. If someone survives an assault there is a very good chance that they are crippled with many thoughts, and if they want to rehash or think about it we can't ask them to not. Sure as friends it is our duty to help them get over the devastation but it is absolutely not our place to expedite it; the survivor should feel comfortable in doing something when they are in that frame of mind.

6. You are a woman, you should be expecting this
 We have heard this so many times! The assumption that as a woman we should be expecting an assault firstly, undermines the scores of abuse survivors who are men, plus it absolves the abusers of all responsibilities because as men we expect them to do is so they must not alter their behaviour but women should.


7. Come on you have to be stronger than this
The fact that a survivor is opening up to their friends or family means that they are strong anyway. The fact that they are able to function after an attack already is virtue to their strength, but our version of that might be completely different to theirs. We can't expect our definition of strength to rule their understanding of it as well. Don't demean their gumption so easily.


8. Are you sure you didn't hint that you wanted it / he was just drunk
No, no, no, no. Never should you ever say this to a survivor. Even if the man was completely out of their senses, even if you were fooling around, even if you were friendly, or even if you were dating -they didn't have the right to violate a boundary you had set. And as someone they trust enough to talk about this, no one can remind them that the assault was privy to doubt or second guesses. Don't even think about saying this, because it reflects poorly on you and your judgement of not only your friend but also sensibilities towards assault.


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