When someone tells you they were raped, how would you respond? Experts say if you’re called to be that pillar of strength for them in that time, there are some ways you can help them heal and move on. Likewise, there are also some things to avoid doing.
- Do Not Compare Situations
Sometimes, to make a person feel better, we tend to compare situations to show that the victim is not as worse-off as they seem.
For example, imagine your friend confiding in you about her harrowing experience.
And you respond, ‘Well, at least you were not brutally gangraped like in some other places.’
Or, cite a a story you read online, ‘Good thing he (the rapist) isn’t your family or friend!’
Studies show that doing so can have a detrimental impact on the victim, causing them to feel that you are trivalising their experience, and instead making them feel worse-off.
- Do Not Give Advice
Whenever someone tells us a problem, don’t we often feel the need to ‘put things right’, ‘fix things’ or ‘handle it better’?
But saying something like, ‘Why didn’t you resist him?’ or ‘You should’ve tried to scream for help!’ will likely only make the victim turn away from you.
Psychologists say that since the incident is now over, it is not productive to analyse it. Doing so could result in the victim mulling over the situation and blaming themselves for it.
Studies show that after an experience of sexual violence, victims tend to feel powerless and depressed.
And at this stage, it’s important to resist the urge to ‘take control’, or ‘restore order’.
This means to refrain from doing simple things like arranging their daily schedule, or bigger things like making decisions on any problems that are hanging.
Instead, you are encouraged to support them in making their own decisions. That includes respecting their choices even if you disagree with it.
- Do Not Trivalise the Rapist’s Actions
‘He was just drunk, he had no control over his actions.’
‘Boys will always be boys!’
Unfortunately, we hear these well-meaning statements more than we should.
But experts say that such statements trivalise the victim’s experience and the rapist’s actions.
They say that in supporting a rape victim, it’s important to acknowledge what’s happening to them.
Use phrases such as ‘I’m sorry this happened to you, this should not have happened’.
Or, ‘Thank you for sharing this with me, it must be very difficult for you’, instead empowers the victim to open up, which kick-starts the healing process.
Next, you should emphasise to the victim that he/she should not be blamed for the abuse they suffered.
And finally, most important is to make clear to them that the blame lies with the rapist.