11 things not to say to someone who has been sexually assaulted

  1. You should have left or pushed him off you.
  2. At least he didn’t…
  3. Are you sure that was assault? That just sounds like bad sex.
  4. Why did you put yourself in that position?
  5. Why did you flirt/kiss him if you didn’t want to have sex?
  6. Did you actually say “no”?
  7. I don’t think he would do that. He’s not a rapist.
  8. I’m sure it was just a misunderstanding. He thought you wanted it.
  9. It’s not that bad.
  10. Why didn’t you say anything earlier?
  11. You’re not over that yet? That was a long time ago.

Here’s the thing about our culture and rape culture. We want people to fit nicely into black and white categories of “good” and “bad.” When we think of the word “rape” we think of the creeper jumping out of the woods and violently attacking. We don’t think of the all American handsome college guy or the likeable and fun party guy. Most of us don’t think of rape or sexual assault as drunkenly fumbling and pushing away groping hands over and over again. In our collective minds, someone who rapes is “bad.” It’s that simple, right? It would be easier if that were true, but it’s not.

“Good” men are not taught was consent really is. “If she’s not saying no and yelling stop, then keep going” they learn.  And if she does say no, keep trying to get her to say yes by continuing to do what you’re doing even if she’s pushing you away. Good men are confused and honestly think that women enjoy having fingers shoved inside them with no foreplay or warning. Good men think that women enjoy sex in the same way as they do. Good men are learning how to have sex by watching porn. They are being socialized to use women as props, not as people with needs and desires different from their own. Porn aside, women are objectified in the locker room, on billboards, in magazines, in TV shows, and on social media. These men are a product of the culture in which they were raised, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held accountable for what they do.

To her, it’s often a lifetime of shame.  A lifetime of trying to unlearn that how everyone else feels, most particularly men, is more important than how she feels and what she wants. Women keep our rape culture going by saying many of the things on the list above. In fact, most of those things have been said to me by another woman or to myself regarding my own sexual assault. We are taught to not hurt his feelings, don’t rock the boat, that’s just how men are. And for God’s sake, be kind and nice and small and quiet. We are taught that we have to give him what he wants because male attention is commodity that must be constantly sought. We are taught not to trust each other, to view each other as “competition.” And for what? For some man to use you like a prop for his own pleasure? These things are socialized into so much that many women don’t consider that the humiliating night of regrets was actually rape or assault. We don’t want to think of ourselves as victims, so we chalk it up as a bad experience. I’m not a victim, we say. I should have known better, we say. I shouldn’t have kissed him, we say. I shouldn’t have gone to his house, we say. I shouldn’t have let him lead me into that room, we say.

But now that I’m older, and wiser, and more mature here’s what I say: FUCK THAT SHIT. Ladies, what we want matters. How we feel matters. You don’t owe him sex because he bought you a drink. You don’t owe him sex because he said you were beautiful. You don’t owe him sex because you went to his house. You don’t owe him sex because you don’t want to hurt his feelings. You don’t owe him sex because he expects it. What you enjoy sexually matters. Sex is not just for him. What you feel matters. Who you are matters.

And for goodness sake, if someone tells you they were assaulted, say this instead:

  • “I believe you.”
  • “I’m here for you, I’ll support you however you want to handle this.”
  • “That sounds really painful, and I hate that you went through that.”
  • And if the Spirit leads you to it, say, “I’ll kill that motherfucker.”

Sisters, we are in this together and the world isn’t going to change if we don’t. That doesn’t mean we hate men (I have love and respect for most men) it means that we stand by women who have the courage to potentially humiliate themselves by speaking out and telling the truth.

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