When You Find Out About a Survivor

Watch your tongue and mind your typing or texting fingers.

So you’ve learned that someone was abused. What can you say or write to the survivor, or others, for that matter?

  • I believe you. I’m praying for you.
  • I’m so sorry that happened to her. She needs our support and love.
  • How can I best support you right now? May I bring over a meal? Can I help get you to a therapy appointment?
  • I just want you to know I support your decision to come out and make this public/report to law enforcement/set up safe boundaries with your offender (or whatever is applicable).
  • This was not your fault. I want you to know that males can be assaulted/abused too. Here is an organization that can support you in finding more support for male survivors.
  • I care and will not stop caring, no matter what!
  • I don’t have answers, but I will support you and try to help you find the answers you need. I can contact an organization like A Better Way if you want me to and ask them for resources.

What should you NOT say or write to the survivor, or others, for that matter?

  • “Oh, she’s ruined for life! Someday she’s going to be married and her poor husband! She’s going to be so frigid and ruin marriage for him.” Point #1. That’s none of your business unless you are about to be the husband. Point #2. If you have that thought go through your head, have the decency to shut your mouth and stop your fingers. No survivor benefits from hearing that kind of fake pity, mixed with doom and gloom. And trust me, odds are good a survivor will hear it or read it, because there are so. many. survivors. All you have done is reveal your own ignorance with a remark like that (and trust me, I’ve seen plenty of remarks similar to it, especially coming from “conservative” men). The truth is, many survivors go on to enjoy sex with a good, kind person who is trustworthy and not abusive. And if they do not? It’s not your blooming business. It’s between them and their spouse and a counselor, if they choose to go to one.
  • “Oh, the little minx! She probably wanted it and now she’s trying to blame him.” Full stop. What teen girl wants to be raped by her father who is old enough to be a grandfather? Really? And even if you think that was true, he was still the adult and still should have said no and gotten her the help she needed. NO. If you think teen girls are going around desiring to be raped by their fathers, you have a really messed up mind, and you need help.
  • “Well, we always knew she was troubled!” Did it ever occur to you that someone who is experiencing abuse just might be “troubled” because of the abuse?? Not get abused because they are “troubled”?! Really–think that through, folks.
  • “Had to have been her fault–she probably wasn’t modest enough–maybe she didn’t wear her housecoat!” Doesn’t matter what she wore or didn’t wear, she was a child and didn’t deserve to be assaulted by anyone, let alone her father who was supposed to protect her! Knock that kind of vile thought out of your head!
  • “Oh, I know him! I just can’t believe he would ever do anything like that. Why, one time he ran clear across a parking lot to give me a pen when he was campaigning. He was so kind and nice. No way he ever would be guilty of something like that.” True fact–abusers can be very nice, and very charming! Just because he was to you doesn’t mean he was to every single person!

Have you guessed by now? These are all statements I have heard over the years about real cases, with real survivors being disbelieved, attacked, and harmed.

We can do better than this by our survivors. We really can.

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