James W.D. Stewart

James W.D. Stewart

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I've heard my share of insensitive comments.  I've also talked to enough victims to be able to gather some of the most damaging words here — for the sake of those who truly want to be helpful, loving, and sensitive.

My intent for writing this article isn't to shame those who want to help and/or to make them walk on eggshells.  Rather, it's to help friends and family members of victims, best love and understand, the journey that is sexual abuse recovery.

/blog/2017/04/25/21-things-you-shouldnt-say-to-sexual-abuse-victims/

https://forces.army/blog/2017/04/25/21-things-you-shouldnt-say-to-sexual-abuse-victims/

21 Things You Shouldn't Say to Sexual Abuse Victims

Count Words — Reading Time
by James Stewart
Published: 
Updated:  N/A
Location:  Greater Sudbury Public Library, 74 Mackenzie St., Sudbury, Ontario, P3C 4X8, Canada
 

 

I've heard my share of insensitive comments.  I've also talked to enough victims to be able to gather some of the most damaging words here — for the sake of those who truly want to be helpful, loving, and sensitive.

My intent for writing this article isn't to shame those who want to help and/or to make them walk on eggshells.  Rather, it's to help friends and family members of victims, best love and understand, the journey that is sexual abuse recovery.

  1. It was so long ago…  Why can't you just get over it?
    • In this case, I'd simply ask, "How long did it take you to 'get over' the death of a loved one?"…  Sexual abuse involves grief — the loss of innocence, the shame of sexual violation, the removing of living life free.  I'm not certain that one ever does "get over it".  They grow…  They heal…  They process.  But, there will always be that grief though.
  2. Are you sure that it even happened?
    • Telling is the hardest thing to do for a sexual abuse victim.  While there are people who make-up stories, err on the side of belief.  Believe me, nobody wishes that they had this terrible story to tell.  And yes, they're sure that it happened.
  3. If you talk about it so much, you'll never heal.
    • Processing is important.  There will be times when a victim spends a lot of time talking.  This, is part of the process.  It won't always be so.  Offer your understanding…  Listen…  Ask questions.  Making snap judgments about someone's healing journey and how long that it "should" take only makes them want to quit.
  4. You know that song, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"?
    • Or — it makes you jumpy, less trusting, more fearful, and/or weaker.
  5. I could never go through what you went through.
    • What this communicates is that, in a way, you're glad that it didn't happen to you.  Which, is completely natural for one to feel.  However, it also makes victims feel like they're somehow marked — they're left with the, very real, truth that it did happen to them.
  6. That perpetrator must live with such awful regret.
    • Perhaps&helip;  Perhaps, not.  Sociopaths and psychopaths don't process regret and/or shame like others do.  They tend to blame society, their upbringing, and even the victim themselves for their violations.  A sexual predator may be redeemable, but their pathway to health is long and excruciating.  There's one article, that truly, helped me to understand how many predators process "getting caught".
  7. That's how men act…  It's normal.
    • This is one of the most demeaning things that anyone could ever say about a man.  Men aren't enslaved to sexual desire — unless, they choose to be.  We can act nobly, honouring the women in our lives.  We'll not die without sexual release.
  8. So-and-so forgave her abuser…  It was easy.
    • While forgiveness is an important part of the healing process, it's neither simple nor easy.  Moreover, it can take years to get to a place where you choose to forgive.  Telling victims how easy it was for someone else makes them feel like the path of healing that they're on is the wrong one.
  9. It's just sex.
    • Unwanted sexual touch is violation…  It's not just sex.  That's why there's a difference between consensual and non-consensual sex.  One is an act of choice and/or love…  The other, is predatory and criminal.
  10. But, was it full sexual abuse?  He just leered?  That's it?
    • Dan Allender, in his book The Wounded Heart, shares that healing from sexual abuse is difficult — no matter, what form it takes.  Don't minimize someone's journey just because it doesn't fit-in with your idea of violaton.
  11. Was the perpetrator drunk?  Were you?
    • The fact is this…  One person chose to violate the will and dishonour the "no" of another.  This is a criminal act — regardless, of the state of inebriation.  If someone murdered another while drunk, that state of drunkenness doesn't excuse the crime.
  12. Well, what were you wearing?
    • Sexual predators prey on people, regardless of what they're wearing.  Women are assaulted when they're just 5-years of age — wearing a kindergartener's dress, corduroy, with pants underneath and patent leather shoes.  Such a question is, simply, ridiculous.
  13. Did you flirt?  What did you expect?
    • Flirting is quite different than asking to be violated.  In the case of date rape, it makes sense that flirting went on because it was a "date".  However, a date alone isn't a precursor to unwanted sexual touch.
  14. Why didn't you tell me before?
    • This isn't about you…  It's about the victim.  Don't place a guilt trip on someone if it's taken her a long time to tell you.  Telling is a huge risk.  Many people are violated a second time, because the people they tell don't believe them, blame them, and/or flat-out walk away.
  15. Hmm…  But, you look normal.
    • Looks can be somewhat deceiving.  Inside the mind of a sexual abuse victim is all sorts of chaos, shame, and/or worry that the secret will define them for the rest of their lives.  They may look "normal", but they struggle to heal — to believe, that they're worthy, to take-up space on this Earth.
  16. Just stop thinking about it.
    • Flashbacks and triggers happen when a person may least expect it.  Many victims suffer from PTSD and can't control the sudden thoughts that invade.
  17. It could have been worse…  [Insert a Worse Sexual Abuse Story Here]
    • This isn't helpful.  Everybody has a unique story, and no matter what the level of sexual abuse, it's very real and hurtful to each individual.  Don't try to minimize one person's story by sharing another.
  18. Oh; I understand totally.  [No, you don't.]
    • Unless you've walked the sexual abuse path, don't say this.  And, even if you have, no two people will process their abuse and/or heal in the same way.
  19. You sure that you didn't make this up to get attention?
    • This is demeaning and utterly dismissive.  Err on the side of belief, and empathy, rather than misinformed judgment.
  20. Well, why didn't you [Insert Thing You Should've Done Here]?
    • Nobody can walk in the abuse victim's shoes.  Nobody knows, exactly, what could or couldn't have been done.  In the middle of violation, most victims are so typically shocked and taken off-guard that there's really no way to have a "right" reaction.  Besides, the abuse happened, and saying there had been a way for the victim to escape is just heaping further shame.
  21. This was part of God's plan.  So, you'll have to make your peace with it.
    • I don't really even know how to respond to this.  Even if somebody has a strong belief in the sovereignty of God, they must be honest — they'd still wrestle with why He didn't protect someone as a small child.  I know as a parent, that if I knew my child was being exploited, I'd have stepped in.  So, one may still wrestle with God's ways, and I think they always would.  They'd still love Him…  They'd still be, utterly, grateful for the healing He's wrought.  However, they'd not really understand why they weren't protected.

Not Marked proved too risky for publishers.  So, it was crowdfunded — which, turned-out to be an amazing success.  What's unique about the book, is that it's written from the perspective of a survivor.  It doesn't offer cliché answers…  It's honest…  And, the author's husband shared his unique journey of how to walk a loved one through their sexual abuse.

 
Categories:  Innominate  
Tags:  Opinionated, Relationship

 
Syndicated to:

 
References:

  1. Caught on tape: 5 self-serving responses by sex offenders in the church
    by Boz Tchividjian Published: 
    Referenced: 
  2. How do you forgive a sexual abuser? By writing a letter
    by Mary DeMuth Published: 
    Referenced: 
  3. I'm Sick of Hearing About Your Smoking Hot Wife
    by Mary DeMuth Published: 
    Referenced: 
  4. Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing after Sexual Abuse
    by Mary DeMuth Published: 
    Referenced: 
  5. The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse
    by Dan Allender Published: 
    Referenced: 

 

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Creative Commons Licence :: BY-NC-SA James W.D. Stewart by James Stewart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  Based on a work at https://github.com/jwds1978/jwds1978.github.io.