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46 Responses

  1. Disemvoweled: Sta Au
    Disemvoweled: Sta Au June 21, 2013 at 8:56 pm |

    the head of a giraffe against a bright blue sky: its mouth is pursed sidewaysTh frst n s crrct. Th rst r wrng. f lt th rpst lv, r cmplct n hs ftr ffnss nd n plcng thr wmn n dngr (rpsts, hvng bndnd ll mrl sns, r cpbl f nthng). Trmnt hm. Th plc wn't nd th crts cn't. t flls t ctzns.
    [Moderator note - ORIGINAL COMMENT CONTENT HAS BEEN DISEMVOWELED]

    1. Andie
      Andie June 21, 2013 at 9:05 pm |

      Yeah, how about we not heap more shit on survivors by implying that they’re complicit in other rapes by not killing their rapist?

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune June 21, 2013 at 9:09 pm |

      Based on the fact that this person seems to do nothing but turn up and recommend killing rapists: we need a giraffe here.

      Shelley: this post is amazing and thoughtful and thank you.

      [Thank you for sending a giraffe alert ~ mods]

      1. amblingalong
        amblingalong June 21, 2013 at 9:13 pm |

        Jinx.

      2. shelley angelie
        shelley angelie June 22, 2013 at 8:50 am |

        @macavitykitsune @aaliyah Thank you!

    3. amblingalong
      amblingalong June 21, 2013 at 9:10 pm |

      We need a giraffe here.

      This poster has showed up on a few threads and made statements like this, which are not only wrong, but also profoundly unhelpful to survivors. Revenge fantasies may be therapeutic for a survivor, but not being pushed by their friends.

      And if someone actually did such a thing, I can’t imagine how horrifying it would be to not only be sexually assaulted, but then have your close friend go to jail for ‘avenging’ you.

      Everything about this series of posts has been fucked up.

      [Thank you for sending a giraffe alert ~ mods]

    4. Jill
      Jill June 21, 2013 at 9:26 pm | *

      Aaaand Sta Au is now banned. Thanks to everyone who called for a giraffe.

  2. amblingalong
    amblingalong June 21, 2013 at 9:04 pm |

    I thought this was a great article and probably (unfortunately) will be useful for a lot of people.

    I do disagree that this is much less heteronormative than the other piece; this line in particular:

    These are all instances of rape, but internalized sexism results in survivors often being confused, scared and even dismissive of this treatment as sexual assault.

    speaks explicitly only to female survivors, since men do not experience oppression due to sexism (I would argue). I realize this reflects your own personal experience, and to be clear, I’m not saying you should have written that section differently; I just think it doesn’t address, for example, men who have been assaulted by other men. Perhaps we’re using the word ‘heteronormative’ differently, though.

    Similarly, I understand that this may have been your experience, but it’s simply objectively not true to say

    Survivors always blame themselves initially.

    Many do. I didn’t; in fact, I didn’t do most of the things that are stereotypically associated with being sexually assaulted (which is probably part of why it was so hard to convince people I wasn’t full of shit). I’m a man, so my experience of sexual assault is in the minority, but it is a real experience. I also have an upsettingly high number of close female friends who have been sexually assaulted, some of whom did second-guess their behavior and blame themselves, and some who absolutely, emphatically did not.

    I thought this was an awesome piece and I’m really grateful/impressed that you wrote and posted it. Please don’t read this as intensive criticism; it’s not. I just think those two short sections, while totally valid and honest depictions of your lived experiences (as you said in the introduction), are a little off.

    1. (BFing)Sarah
      (BFing)Sarah June 21, 2013 at 10:38 pm |

      That’s an interesting perspective, because I would argue that (some) male survivors definitely suffer from internalized sexism in the aftermath of sexual assault. I think internalized sexism affects men in a different way, but it still is present and hurtful, especially when dealing with rape/sexual assault. Sexism in our culture teaches us that men are supposed to be these strong, sexually powerful beings…and I would argue that that is harmful to men in a way that could result in confusion, fear, and dismissing the experience of sexual assault, as described in the post. Like, “Wait. I’m supposed to be in control…how did this happen to ME??” type feeling. But, you know, I am a woman who is has had this experience and I obviously can’t know what it feels like for a man, so my apologies if I am talking out of turn here. But, I feel like its internalized sexism that might result in men feeling like their masculinity/masculine identities have been insulted by the experience. They might feel like they can’t/shouldn’t talk about it because of the messages they have been given by our sexist culture (men shouldn’t feel things or discuss their feelings, men shouldn’t express sadness). I mean its because of sexism that some men feel like they can’t come forward and talk about their sexual assault because of myths like men “always” want sex or men should always be “in control” of their bodies and emotions. I mean, I do feel like sexism is hurtful to men as well. I think sexism is the reason why you have had to deal with people dismissing your experience. Do you feel like that’s inaccurate that a lot of men suffer because of the expectations of “masculine identity” that are placed on them? It was my understanding that it does make it really hard for a man to admit he has been sexually assaulted, but I am honestly asking because I value your perspective. I can’t know what its like personally, and I have honestly never met a man who has admitted (to me) that he is a survivor of sexual assault.

      1. Li
        Li June 21, 2013 at 11:41 pm |

        Ehhh. I do think some men experience what you’re talking about here, where sexual assault impacts on their feelings of masculinity, and I understand the ways in which my experiences of sexual assault are gendered (for instance, the way I had been socialised to see myself as safe in/entitled to public space were very different to how many women I know were socialised and thus sexual assault was disruptive to those notions in a different way), but this analysis seems a little off to me. (Not least because men aren’t a monolith and our experiences of both masculinity and sexual assault can be radically altered by axes other than just gender, like race, disability and sexuality.)

        I think a better way of thinking about what amblingalong is talking about by using the term heterosexism (and feel free to correct me here if this is way off the mark) is that what the OP refers to as “internalised sexism” is more broadly internalised rape culture. And in cases where the perpetrator and victim are both of the same gender, the gendered and sexist axis of the narratives around sexual violence we’ve internalised may not be the primary axis that applies.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong June 22, 2013 at 12:37 am |

          I need to think a lot more about this before I have something coherent to say, but where I’m starting out is this: I was harassed/stalked/sexually assaulted over a period of time by a female acquaintance. I had some great friends who were really supportive/helpful, but I also got a ton of ‘she’s hot, just enjoy it,’ ‘you’re an asshole for rejecting her,’ ‘you obviously are leading her on,’ and ‘you’re bigger/stronger than she is- how could she assault you?’ Those types of statements, to me, reflect fundamentally sexist ideas (men are powerful agents, men are more sexual, etc.) that typically are deployed against women.

          I actually, for whatever weird reason, was way more frustrated/angry/scared by the reactions I got trying to find help from the school and ‘friends’ than by the assault and stalking itself. So many people seemed to think I was actually a jerk for ‘hurting her feelings.’ I think partly because of male privilege, I never doubted that I was in the right/blamed myself; it was an emotional shitshow, but not for those reasons.

          Finally, I don’t want to derail a thread that’s primarily about female victims to “what about teh menz.’ I just wanted to point out that a couple things on this list didn’t accurately reflect my experience- which the author herself said up front might be the case.

      2. Li
        Li June 21, 2013 at 11:44 pm |

        I can’t know what its like personally, and I have honestly never met a man who has admitted (to me) that he is a survivor of sexual assault.

        Also I want to be clear that I’m obviously not the spokesperson for All Men Who Have Survived Sexual Violence here either. Like women, men are different from one another and we can have radically different experiences of sexual violence.

        1. (BFing) Sarah
          (BFing) Sarah June 23, 2013 at 7:08 pm |

          Yeah, thanks, Li. I’m pretty sure I know that (men are different from each other), thus the use of the word “some” and “might” throughout my post. But, I appreciate you talking down to me; it always makes my day.

        2. Li
          Li June 24, 2013 at 1:00 am |

          Sorry, that was meant as a general disclaimer rather than being directed at you. I’m sorry that it came across as condescending.

    2. Computer Soldier Porygon
      Computer Soldier Porygon June 23, 2013 at 2:50 am |

      Many do. I didn’t; in fact, I didn’t do most of the things that are stereotypically associated with being sexually assaulted (which is probably part of why it was so hard to convince people I wasn’t full of shit).

      I have never blamed struggled with self-blame, and I did kind of raise an eyebrow at that sentence. Like, obviously I know many people do struggle with that and I don’t think I’m super awesome because I didn’t. I also, in a way, think it was ‘easier’ for me because I have never been assaulted by a friend, acquaintance or intimate partner. It was ‘easy’ (I mean, easy, easier… doesn’t mean anything about it was actually EASY) for me not to blame myself because the thing I think of as My Assault (as opposed to the randoms masturbating on me on the subway or whatever, which I recognize as assaults but don’t classify mentally in the same way) was a very… stranger-in-the-bushes type scenario. So, I was just like, ‘well, that guy was just a really bad dude.’ For me, there was not a lot of conflict there w/r/t my role in the whole thing. Lots of other negative feelings, but not that.

  3. Aaliyah
    Aaliyah June 21, 2013 at 11:47 pm |

    Wonderful piece. Thank you, Shelley.

  4. zaebos
    zaebos June 22, 2013 at 12:17 am |

    Number 5 really popped out to me. I wish more people would listen to this.

  5. Ekama
    Ekama June 22, 2013 at 9:44 am |

    So friends must completely tailor their behaviour throughout the entire future of the friendship because someone is a victim of sexual assault? I will treat a friend who has been sexually assaulted exactly the same way as before, it is tragic, but the world does not revolve around victims and I will most definitely not tailor myself around victims, and I would expect nothing less of them. I won’t mock or pity, neither is helpful in the long term.

    1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 22, 2013 at 10:32 pm |

      So … you don’t think they deserve any consideration, any help or support at all?

      If a friend of yours had a broken leg, would you expect them to climb stairs just because that’s what they always used to do, or because it suited you?

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune June 22, 2013 at 10:58 pm |

      Did you escape that the “tailoring” was all related to how to talk/react/behave about the assault? OP didn’t say you have to do everything always in the way the assaulted person needs, just that your behaviour related to their assault needs to be as they would prefer.

      In short: you see Sta Au on the top of the thread?

      Yeah, don’t be Sta Au.

      1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help June 23, 2013 at 12:16 am |

        Going from this:

        I will treat a friend who has been sexually assaulted exactly the same way as before, it is tragic, but the world does not revolve around victims and I will most definitely not tailor myself around victims, and I would expect nothing less of them.

        I would say Ekama doesn’t actually have any empathy for people who’ve been raped. That statement reads like someone who doesn’t care enough about a supposed friend to inconvenience themselves in any way whatsoever. I hope I’m reading it wrong, but it really comes across like “So you’ve been raped, so what? Sure, it’s tragic, but get over it, how dare you impose on me in any way by having actual needs!”

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve June 23, 2013 at 7:29 pm |

          I would say Ekama doesn’t actually have any empathy for people who’ve been raped. That statement reads like someone who doesn’t care enough about a supposed friend to inconvenience themselves in any way whatsoever. I hope I’m reading it wrong, but it really comes across like “So you’ve been raped, so what? Sure, it’s tragic, but get over it, how dare you impose on me in any way by having actual needs!”

          Not only that but she’s claiming that she’s doing it for the good of the victim, as if any change of behavior is dangerous molly-coddling.

    3. wembley
      wembley June 23, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

      w-what is happening in this post? what is even happening.

    4. PrettyAmiable
      PrettyAmiable June 23, 2013 at 7:49 pm |

      Thank God I don’t know you in life.

      I don’t know your life circumstances, and as such, won’t tailor my response to them. You suck. You are seriously just a terrible person.

    5. Donna L
      Donna L June 23, 2013 at 7:56 pm |

      I am so glad that I am not your friend. If you would kindly let us know where you live, I can tell anyone I know there to stay away from you.

  6. Kaia
    Kaia June 22, 2013 at 10:13 am |

    I think 1 and 2 aren’t useful at all.
    It’s obvious you should wait until they have finished saying what they need to tell you but just sitting in silence after is going to make them feel awkward or judged and two while a nice thought seems very patronizing to the person I don’t think they would have confided in someone they thought they couldn’t trust and if they thought you didn’t believe them they would out right ask you.
    The rest is good though.

    1. catfood
      catfood June 22, 2013 at 11:28 am |

      “Don’t say anything at all,” doesn’t mean stony silence. It means listening, paying attention, and using appropriate verbal and non-verbal signals to indicate the other person has the floor as long as she or he needs it.

      1. moorepark
        moorepark June 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm |

        “Don’t say anything at all,” doesn’t mean stony silence.

        wut?

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 24, 2013 at 2:59 pm |

          In OP’s own words, it means:

          unless you are explicitly asked for advice, just listen. Don’t try to ‘solve’ the issues

          Might try reading beyond a topic sentence; it often helps.

        2. moorepark
          moorepark June 24, 2013 at 3:47 pm |

          The following sentence doesn’t really address the silence at all. If the victim does not ask me for advice, my instinct would be silence. Of the 2 recent people in my life who have decided to tell me about their assaults, I sat silent in both cases after the initial exchange, simply because I didn’t know what they wanted me to say and was to afraid of saying the wrong thing to experiment.

          … It was very very awkward.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 24, 2013 at 4:08 pm |

          Personally, I find “I’m very sorry that happened to you”, followed by “I’m listening if you want to talk about it more”, or “is there anything you would like me to do for you?” etc tend to do just fine. If the situation feels more delicate than that, you can probably go with “I don’t know what to say, other than that sounds horrible and traumatic to me” tends to carry on the conversation/allow them to go with whatever they were intending to say or do that they brought up the assault for. Silence can be weird and awkward, so…don’t do it if it makes you feel that way.

  7. TomSims
    TomSims June 22, 2013 at 10:41 am |

    No 1 and No 5 sound like sure fire advice. I’ve never been in that position and hope I never am to be honest.

  8. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable June 22, 2013 at 2:10 pm |

    Thanks Shelley.

    I will say that this:

    Survivors always blame themselves initially

    was not true for me. It made the experience a little different for me because I was immediately on the offensive (and defensive) when people inevitably victim-blamed me. I was angry really early on. (Maybe unusually so?)

    But all of the advice for talking to someone like me is still sound. Thanks for putting this together.

    1. armillaria
      armillaria June 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm |

      yeah, i was gonna say that same thing. survivors always blame themselves? guess i’m not a survivor, then.

  9. Georgia
    Georgia June 22, 2013 at 7:14 pm |

    Thank you so much. When I’m in this situation it can be so difficult to know how to help her feel better and not worse. Greatly appreciated.

  10. Sunday News Round-Up, Everything is Miscellaneous Edition | Women's Health News

    […] At Feministe, Five things to say to a friend who confides in you that they’ve been sexually assaulted. […]

  11. Weekly Feminist Reader
    Weekly Feminist Reader June 23, 2013 at 3:14 pm |

    […] Five things to tell a friend who has been assaulted. […]

  12. Black Tar Coffee
    Black Tar Coffee June 23, 2013 at 5:30 pm |

    I would be really interested in hearing other people’s thoughts about point 5, as it really jumped out at me. In my line of work I work with children and young people and I have to follow Child Protection policy in line with UK and Scottish law. According to this, if, say a 14 year old told me that they had been sexually assaulted and I felt they were “at risk” I would have to tell my line manager, who would potentially contact the police or social work services, even if they asked me not to tell anyone else. This would also be true if an adult who was deemed “vulnerable” disclosed this to me. I would be compelled by law to do this, and I do not feel that I really have a choice on this. This directly contradicts point five the article, and I’d be interested in hearing other posters’ thoughts on this. While an aspect of it troubles me, I am ultimately comfortable with it as I feel it offers protection to some people who really need it. Thoughts?

    1. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve June 23, 2013 at 7:38 pm |

      I would be really interested in hearing other people’s thoughts about point 5, as it really jumped out at me. In my line of work I work with children and young people and I have to follow Child Protection policy in line with UK and Scottish law. According to this, if, say a 14 year old told me that they had been sexually assaulted and I felt they were “at risk” I would have to tell my line manager, who would potentially contact the police or social work services, even if they asked me not to tell anyone else. This would also be true if an adult who was deemed “vulnerable” disclosed this to me. I would be compelled by law to do this, and I do not feel that I really have a choice on this. This directly contradicts point five the article, and I’d be interested in hearing other posters’ thoughts on this. While an aspect of it troubles me, I am ultimately comfortable with it as I feel it offers protection to some people who really need it. Thoughts?

      The OP is addressing a friend of someone who is confided in, not someone who works with children/at-risk adults. Insisting that your FRIEND call the police when she’s not ready is not the same thing as reporting child abuse.

  13. Tanya
    Tanya June 23, 2013 at 6:22 pm |

    My own persona experience of #5 was backwards. I was stuck, i don’t know if i was scared, or numb or both, but my best friend (male for what it’s worth) had to kinda push me to get to a doctor. He didn’t push me to report it, but he did verbalize it, cause i wasn’t thinking (and if you are going to report it, there is a window that is best).

    I’m not at all advocating any friend, parent, sibling, etc., DO this, i’m just saying I’d have sat there with no help at all, had he not stepped in. Then, after i’d gotten attention, he did 1-4. just waited for what I needed, I wanted to say, etc.

  14. (BFing) Sarah
    (BFing) Sarah June 23, 2013 at 7:18 pm |

    Thank you. I thought this was very thoughtful. I agree absolutely with just listening and doing only what you are asked to do. The most helpful response I got was a hug and “I’m so sorry that happened to you” but that was specific to our friendship and wouldn’t work for everyone. I HATED feeling pity or anger in others when I told them…and I especially hated feeling like I was “dirty” or untouchable because of it. I also hated people trying to tell me what to think or feel about it or acting very horrified, because that made me kind of spiral into a bad place. I also hated standoffish type responses like, “Oh. Wow.” [stares into corner of room…gets awkward] I will say that the more I talk about it, the easier it gets for me…but, even more than 10 years later (!!) its still hard to put it out there.

  15. moorepark
    moorepark June 24, 2013 at 2:23 pm |

    what if the survivor wants something you are unwilling to give? Are you morally bound to continue to associate with them?

    1. White Rabbit
      White Rabbit June 24, 2013 at 2:54 pm |

      To answer your first question, I would recommend that you let the person know that you are not able and/or willing to offer them what they have requested.

      As to your second question, you don’t explain whether this is a close friend, acquaintance, colleague, etc., so it’s difficult to respond. That said, I would argue that no one is “morally bound” to continue to associate with anyone else (barring obvious circumstances such as parents raising children, etc).

      If someone you are not close to has disclosed to you, and you are not comfortable helping them, I would recommend distancing yourself from them in an empathetic way. You could also consider offering them the contact information for organization that can help them, just in case they’re not already aware of them.

      Having said all of that, it is not uncommon for survivors of sexual or domestic violence to lose friends when they disclose. I have lost several “friends” in this manner, so I’m personally familiar with this upsetting phenomenon. I hope this isn’t the case, but if you’re looking for a blanket pass to summarily dump a friend in a time of crisis, you won’t get it from me.

      1. moorepark
        moorepark June 24, 2013 at 3:59 pm |

        but if you’re looking for a blanket pass to summarily dump a friend in a time of crisis, you won’t get it from me.

        I discussed this briefly in a previous thread on the subject. A friend recently disclosed to me, the event was also relatively recent (she apparently told me approximately 10 days after). Yes I’m aware that victims usually fear having their friends desert them in lue of not wanting to alienate the offender (not the case here, this was literally a stranger in an ally).

        My problem is this friend and I typically converse using language that most feminist would consider offensive / triggering, etc. And in an attempt to “keep things as they were” and “not let the rapist win”, my friend is being very demanding (almost to the point of invasive) about me not changing my demeanor around her.

        However, some time has passed since I’ve taken some of the advice given in the last thread and she is clearly being triggered by some of the things I do or say, only to immediately reprimand me harshly when I attempt to sanitize jokes or “hold back”. I’m in a position where I’m being literally in some cases screamed at for walking on egg shells and clearly hurting her when I’m not.

        I don’t know what to do other than completely remove myself from the situation but she as already blatantly stated repeatedly that she does NOT want that to happen; AND to make matters worse, due to dealing with a potential divorce (one that involves 3 children), she is already very short on storm weathering friends.

        1. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit June 26, 2013 at 2:01 pm |

          I’m so sorry for what happened to your friend. And what you describe as happening between the two of you since then sounds difficult and heartbreaking. If I may, I’d like to suggest Captain Awkward’s site for some further guidance. That’s where I would look for advice in this kind of situation. Whatever you do, good luck to you.

          Also, survivors are abandoned by friends for a variety of reasons, not just because their friends fear alienating the perpetrator.

  16. Paige
    Paige July 5, 2013 at 5:52 pm |

    I think one thing needs to be added, maybe because of the people I “came out” as a survivor to: Ask About Touching Me. I can’t begin to explain how triggering it was to have people I love trying to comfort me by giving me a hug. Then I felt like such an ass for being uncomfortable with it. I had one person ask if it was okay to hug me and it felt so great, that little bit of sensitivity and respect made all the difference for me.

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