Warning: may contain triggers for sexual abuse survivors
It’s been two years since I heard the first of many people say, “At least you weren’t raped.” It was a huge blow to my soul. I wasn’t trying to win the award for worst abuse, but having my experience lessened was painful. Almost a decade of sexual abuse. Three decades of spiritual/emotional/verbal abuse. I think most of them had their hearts in the right place, but “At least you weren’t raped” sent me the message that my pain and experience weren’t valid.
Sometimes, we don’t know what to say. So we go to extremes. We fill empty spaces with words that do more harm than good. I am reluctant to even share the things that shouldn’t have been said to me about my experience, because I don’t want this to become 14 Things You Shouldn’t Say To A Sexual Abuse Survivor.
But maybe it does need to be out there? Maybe we do need to talk about the things we shouldn’t say. Many times, what is meant to fill awkward silences morphs into incorrect statements. We go past awkward “at least” comments to outright hurtful. Just forgive and forget and move on. Our culture often tries to minimize abuse. We see this leveling in media and the justice system almost daily.
“He’s done so much good, does he really need to go to prison now?”
“It happened so long ago, does it really matter now?”
“People will think badly of Jesus because of this. Can’t you just keep it quiet?”
“I forgave my abuser, so I didn’t need to press charges.”
“Maybe if you were healthier, you wouldn’t feel like you needed him to serve time in prison.”
“Are you sure it actually happened?”
“Was it just an accident?”
“Was it just one time? No one should have his life ruined for one time.”
“Were you just dreaming?”
“Sexual addiction isn’t a crime. He just needs help.”
“Why didn’t you tell anyone before?”
“How could you not remember it before now?”
“I hope you don’t become one of those people who talks about it. It makes people uncomfortable.”
I never really had answers for these things. I often just walked away, deleted the text, unfriended the person on Facebook. As I become more secure in the fact that I did the right thing, it’s easier to give an answer. A rebuttal. I’m slowly moving from victim to victor.
Yes, I heard things I shouldn’t have heard. I was the recipient of rants and soapboxes. But, for the most part, I was met with love. And the list of amazing things family, friends, and strangers said could fill ten posts. Here are some of my favorites.
“I’m praying for your healing.”
“Your bravery will help others.”
“I have no idea what to say. But I love you.”
“I had the same thing happen. Thank you for going public.”
“It gets easier. The nightmares fade over time.”
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t worth it. If it had happened only one time, that’s enough.”
“You’re not alone.”
“If you need someone to scream the f-word with, just call me.”
“I can’t even imagine. Just know that I love you.”
“Thinking of you during the hearings.”
“Don’t listen to the crazy things people will say. This is a crime.”
Friends brought Sonic drinks, Starbucks, and hugs. Texted me Scripture. Simply said, “Love you, sister.” We don’t always need to fill the silence. Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks through us. But sometimes we just need to be there. And if you’re in the position of being in a relationship with a person who was abused…pretty likely, since it’s 1 in 5 females and 1 in 8 males…err on the side of ridiculously extravagant grace and some silence. Or a simple “I’m here for you.”