“James is Dead”
Video Short Highlighting the Sexual Abuse Paradox
“How to Protect Yourself from Rape”
Video Short Flipping the Script on Avoiding Rape
Physical Assault v. Sexual Assault
Imagine you had a friend who had staggered into your home after just being stabbed. You knew something was wrong, but you couldn’t see the wound.
Your friend is in pain and rambling. She tells you that another mutual friend of yours came to her house for lunch. Your friend had just set the table and the mutual friend sat down. Your friend says she then went to get food out of the refrigerator. While she was turned, the mutual friend picked up a knife off of the table and stabbed her in the side.
She then shows you an awful, ghastly wound. She’s still bleeding. You’re disgusted, and you’re shocked. Would you get angry at your friend for getting herself stabbed? Would you stand idly judging your friend and say the following:
“Are you sure that friend stabbed you? I’ve never really known him to stab anyone before.”
“But did he mean to stab you? Could he have tripped? Like accidentally? Maybe the knife fell into your side?”
“Well, what did you expect? You kind of put yourself in a bad situation. I mean, what did you think would happen when you put a knife on the table?”
“Can we really not talk about this? It, like, makes me super uncomfortable. I don’t want to take sides. I’m friends with both of you. Oh, and can you try not to bleed all over on my rug. I just got it cleaned.”
“Did you tell him you didn’t want to be stabbed? I mean, I know your back was turned when he stabbed you, but once the knife was in your back, did you tell him you didn’t like getting stabbed?”
Sound ridiculous? Of course, it is. You would likely call an ambulance. Then you would call the police and report the crime. It is what you would do in the case of violent physical assault, and it is what you should do in the case of violent sexual assault. The law treats these heinous, violent crimes on equal terms. Shouldn’t we?
What To Do When Someone Discloses
1. Pause & Listen
Listen first. Pause and breathe. Try not to look shocked (even when you feel it).
The only thing worse than a victim’s enduring sexual abuse is having trusted loved ones, mentors, advisors, spiritual leaders, family, and friends question them once they’ve mustered up the courage to disclose it. This single factor has the greatest impact on a victim’s recovery.
Victims have little reason to lie. They risk much more by speaking than they could ever hope to gain. Approximately 1% of sexual assault reports are false. 99% are true.
3. Avoid Judgment & Show Empathy
There’s no “right thing” to say, but there are wrong things to say. A victim will remember your words forever. Choose them wisely. This person trusts you. Be worthy of that trust by showing compassion:
“I am sorry that this happened. You did nothing to deserve this, and this is not your fault.”
“I don’t know exactly what to do, but we’ll find out.”
“I am treating this seriously. We are going to get you help.”
“I believe you, and I am here for you.”
“You are not alone.”
“I want you to know that you are not damaged. I don’t think any differently of you. Actually, your talking shows exactly how strong and brave you are.”
4. Ask Them What They Need & Want
Sexual assault is a power crime. Abusers use another person’s body as a weapon of control. For this reason, it is important to allow victims control in disclosure and in outcomes. Do offer support whatever they decide. Also, know if you’re a mandatory reporter. Encourage reporting, evidence preservation, and professional intervention.
5. Keep Them & Others Safe
Make sure the victim is safe from their perpetrator. He should not be expected to be in a room with, in a home with, in a school with, or in a church with the very person who harmed him. If the perpetrator is someone you know (or even a family member), separate yourself, emotionally. Report the crime as just that–a crime. Allow others, field experts, to investigate, diagnose, and prescribe.
5. Check In & Follow-up
This one is often missed by the best intending people. Healing is a long road traveling through mountains and valleys. Avoid judgments and simply be there for the person. Be a good friend, classmate, loved one, spiritual help, family member. Show ongoing love, support, encouragement, and positivity. Help them remember all that’s good in the world.
How Safe is Your Church? Your School? Listen to Boz Tchividjian, a lawyer, a law professor, and the grandson of Billy Graham, speak here.
Mary DeMuth’s interview’s Jimmy Hinton, a pastor and advocate. He reported abuse occurring in his church. The acused abuser? His own father. Listen to the interview here.
Prevention Resources & Toolkits