Things You Shouldn’t Say to A Rape Survivor


TRIGGER WARNING ATTACHED FOR THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN RAPED/SEXUALLY ASSAULTED/ABUSED.  

Surviving a sexual assault or rape is one of the most difficult things a person can face. It can be just as difficult for loved ones to cope as well. Every rape survivor deals with what happened to them differently and everyone heals at different rates. Because of that, it can be difficult to know what to say or do to help. If the survivor chooses to confide in you about what happened to them, please choose your words carefully. What you say has the power to change things for better or worse. This isn’t the most comprehensive list you’ll find, but these are definitely things that can make a bad situation worse if you say it to a rape survivor.

What were you wearing? This is victim blaming at its finest. It doesn’t matter what a person was wearing at the time. He or she has the right not to be violated because of it. 

Tell me EXACTLY what happened? Recounting the exact details of the assault can be very traumatic. If your loved one doesn’t want to tell you or only gives you some of the details do not press them for more or try to force them. You may cause them to have a panic attack or set him or her back in their recovery. It also may cause the survivor to feel resentment towards you.

Were you drinking? This is kind of like victim blaming too. Asking this question makes it appear like you’re searching for a way to discredit your loved one or see if they were at fault.  It doesn’t matter if the survivor was drunk or high at the time of the assault. If he or she didn’t want to have sex or sexual contact it’s rape/sexual assault.

Were you flirting? Again another form of victim blaming.

Are you okay? No matter how much time has passed, you never exactly feel “okay”. Your loved one may be at peace with the situation or feel better about it, but it will never be okay.

Why are you still upset about it? Everyone heals at a different pace. There is no set time frame for recovery. It may take weeks, months, or even years. Saying this makes your loved one feel bad about still feeling bad about it. Trust me, they don’t want to.

You shouldn’t dwell on it. Again, everyone heals at their own rate. Telling your loved one not to dwell on it will make them feel as if they aren’t making progress in their recovery. The last thing a survivor wants is to be told what to do and how to feel.

Anything to guilt them into going to the police. If your loved one doesn’t want to go to the police, you shouldn’t try to guilt them into it. It’s true that reporting the crime could prevent other women or men from getting hurt or provide closure. However, it might not. Either way, it’s not your decision to make.

Anything to guilt them into not going to the police. Again, this isn’t your decision to make. If your loved one wants to report the crime, do not discourage them.

You should be over it by now. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed. It’s always going to hurt. Again, it makes your loved one feel bad about feeling bad.

You have to put it behind you. Your loved one is probably doing their best, but the experience is always going to stick with him or her. Saying this is going to make him or her feel like they aren’t recovering fast enough.

Any form of you should see a psychiatrist.  Even if you think this may be the best course of action for him or her, it’s not your choice to make.

That wasn’t rape. Rape is the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse or any act of forced sexual intercourse.  Sexual assault is illegal sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent. In other words, if your loved one didn’t consent then it was rape.

Try not to think about it. The last thing your loved one wants to do is think about it, but it happens.

Half assing your support. It’s okay if you aren’t ready to talk to your loved about what happened to him or her. If that’s the case, it’s best to be honest about it. It may hurt, bit it would hurt far less than you not supporting them fully. Nothing hurts more than pouring your heart out only to be met with a half hearted response.

If you ever end up saying these or other inflammatory things to your loved one, don’t panic. No one is perfect. Sometimes we say the wrong thing at the wrong time. The best way to make things right is to apologize and tell him or her that you didn’t mean to hurt them. It may not make things right immediately, but it will be a start.

5 thoughts on “Things You Shouldn’t Say to A Rape Survivor

  1. I think most people don’t see rape as a random crime. They can’t allow themselves to feel that way because then it means it could happen to them. Better it happen to the girl in a short skirt who drank too much, and parked her car in a dimly lit area. Major props to you for doing a piece victim blaming. If we can begin to understand the prevailing myths about rape then maybe we stand a chance in preventing it. Hugs.

    1. Thanks for reading. I agree with you. I don’t think people realize how damaging victim blaming is unless they’ve experienced it. It really sucks to hear people who you love or respect or even strangers questioning your choices and blaming you for something you had no control over. Hopefully this helps someone.

  2. Great advice and information, I’ve never known anyone close to me suffer from rape but if they did I would want to do all I can to support and help them through it. Thanks for sharing 🙂 x

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