To Speak or Not to Speak – That is Not the Question
It isn’t as easy to speak up and tell someone when you have been assaulted as some people might think. There are many different scenarios that warrant a survivor to be silent. But how can we help that survivor of sexual assault or domestic abuse who feels it is better to keep quiet?
The question is not to speak or not to speak. The question is who do I speak to, who do I tell? Who do I tell about this horrible, embarrassing thing that happened to me? Who can I trust? Where is my safe place? You must tell someone for your own safety and possibly to save someone else from the same horror you have experienced.
The Authorities. The authorities are first responders that are connected to the various agencies that will help you on your healing journey. Yes, you will need to heal, physically, emotionally, mentally and sometimes spiritually. Call 911 or the sexual assault hotline – 1.800.656.HOPE (4673), www.rainn.org, RAINN, (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network). Once you tell the local authorities they will investigate the assault and document the assault. The victim will need to go to the emergency room to be examined. Many hospitals have a separate emergency entrance for rape victims. Normally a crime victim’s advocate will accompany the survivor to the hospital or meet them there. The victim does not have to file charges to be examined for rape. Some local authorities or victim’s advocates help the victim in seeking counseling, shelter, etc. Therapy or counseling after a traumatic experience such as rape is essential to many victims’ healing.
“Therapists help hurting people recognize natural reactions to trauma and determine which reactions might benefit from professional intervention. Trauma survivors can use the relationships with their therapists to gauge the progress of their pilgrimage toward feeling better. If family members and friends are interested in helping, they also can learn how to support and appropriately encourage survivors….. Some trauma survivors are relieved when they can meet with other survivors who have lived through what some have called “a similar hell.” Group therapy, support groups, or educational groups can be invaluable for this process.” (Janice Lord – article in http://www.silentscreams4help.com/Counseling-Insights.html)
Family member or close friend– It is very important that you are surrounded with support, people who care about you and believe you. Family and friends can be your strongest supporters. Support comes in many ways; calling to check on you, providing items you may need, giving you a safe place to rest, helping you navigate your life after the assault, listening to you even when they don’t understand and they won’t understand many times.
On the other hand family members can be co-abusers. Co-abusers re-victimize the survivors by actions or statements or disbelief, guilt, blame, especially if the perpetrator is a member of the family. If the assault was committed by someone in the family such as a father, brother, uncle, tell someone in the family you trust. Find a safe person. If the family does not support you or you feel your life is threatened tell a close friend, school counselor, pastor, etc., but tell someone.
Rape or Sexual Assault by Community, Church and School Leaders – Rape and other sexual assaults by community, clergy and school authorities is prevalent. Notifying the authorities of such attacks is a big step for many victims because of the predator’s leadership within the church, school or community. Tell someone! Find someone you can trust who believes you. Be prepared! Threats, fear, intimidation, ridicule, discredit are just a few tactics used against victims of rape and sexual assaults by a predator in an authoritative position. As an adult who has been violated by an adult leader you have the right to press charges. Whatever you do or don’t do please don’t be silent. Tell someone.
Rape or Sexual Assault in Years Past – What about the person who was assaulted 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago and has kept their secret all this time. How has this silence affected your life, your relationships, the choices you made? To be honest the rape or assault spoke volumes in your life since the assault. The choices you made, the fears you felt, the emotions you carried very well could have been products of past traumas. Life is complex and it’s hard to connect your current fears, thoughts or emotions to a trauma(s) that occurred years ago. You felt you dealt with it and life goes on.
At some point in the life of victims of sex crimes in their past life, the trauma is brought back to life. Emotions are stirred and fear returns. The trauma has been triggered and entered your current life. It could have been triggered by anything, a person, place, event, words spoken, a sound, a tone of voice, a fragrance, a touch, anything. It speaks even if you don’t want it to. That’s the time to get help. That is the time that you realize no matter how long this thing was buried, it rose now from the depth of your pain and it is time to begin the real healing journey. When that time comes don’t ignore it. Contact a professional who is trained to walk with you through to health and freedom. It’s worth it.