20 Wrong Things To Say To Sexual Abuse Survivors
“The tongue has no bones, but is strong enough to break a heart. So be careful with your words.”
By Guest Blogger: “Zoe“
If a survivor of child sexual abuse told you her story, would you know how to respond? Would you know the absolute wrong thing to say? Over the years, I've run across some responses that are incredibly insensitive or hurtful to say to or ask of a survivor. Of all the things I've heard, here is my list of the top 20 “NO, NO's!”:
- What were you wearing?
- Why were you there?
- Did you fight back?
- Why didn’t you scream?
- What happened?
- Did you say no, and say it forcefully enough?
- Are you sure? That’s a serious accusation.
- Men (or women) get carried away.
- She’s a drama queen.
- Get over it. / Let it go.
- Be more positive.
- You’re thinking about it wrong; that needs to change so you won’t be as upset.
- It couldn’t be them, they’re so nice.
- Bad breakup?
- It's just love gone wrong.
- Live well; it’s the best revenge.
- Stop talking about it, it’s ruling your life.
- Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
- He/She must be ill (shows more concern for the criminal).
- Boys will be boys.
Other survivors have reached out to me on my blog “Behind The Mask of Sexual Abuse” and shared additional, insensitive comments made by other well-meaning people… as well as some who simply are in denial that sexual abuse ever happened to one of us (like their child or sibling). Here are a few of those “remove these from your repertoire” responses:
- “Being steeped in anger doesn’t help anyone.”
- “Well, the abuse is over now, so you’re okay.”
- “WHAAAAAT?! I just can’t believe that! Why would he do that?!”
- “You know, Cousin Billy’s new wife was abused as a child, and she has learned forgiveness. She has a great relationship with her family, you know.”
- “I really can’t get involved. My husband abused my kids, and I don’t know what to do. Them grandbabies still go visit him and it worries me sick.”
- “I’m 100% positive he wouldn’t do it again.”
- “Why didn’t you crawl in your daddy’s lap and tell him?” (YUCK!)
- “It must not have bothered you, you never complained about it at the time.”
- “I’ve been warned about all your lies.”
- “You’re such a strong woman because of it.”
- “Are you SURE?!”
- “But did he penetrate you?”
- “Why are you hurting us with this now?
One comment that scarred me deeply came from my own mother who, after I was attacked by a gang of boys at age 12, replied, “Oh. Well, how does spaghetti sound for dinner?”
Elisabeth from over at Stolen Childhood blog who was trafficked into prostitution by her parents heard this response… “But he was a colonel in the military. How could he do something like that?”
Everyone of these statements or questions blames the victim/survivor. Comments like these immediately shut us down. We don’t need to be made out as the criminal committing the offense. That should be left squarely on the shoulders of our abusers. Please choose your words carefully when talking with survivors of abuse. We may look strong on the outside, but words can cut us like knives.
Zoe is a survivor of multiple types of abuse… sexual, physical, psychological and torture. She keeps her true identity concealed as her abusers are still around. Courageously, Zoe is speaking out about being a survivor and tells her story through her blog, “Behind The Mask Of Abuse“. While sharing her personal perspectives, Zoe encourages other abuse survivors to know they are “not alone”. As she continues her journey of healing, she is married to the love of her life for 10 years now and is mama to a couple of pets she adores! As a creative outlet, she recently started another blog, “We Poets Show It“.
Working to improve the world one child at a time, Ginger has made it her life mission to raise awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger can be contacted via her website “Ginger Kadlec: 4UrKids™” at gingerkadlec.com or find her on Facebook at facebook.com/gingergkadlec.
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