Ten Things You Should Never Say To An Abuse Victim (And Ten Things You Could Say Instead)



I have heard each of these and many more, and would consider the following statements and questions some of the least helpful (and potentially pretty harmful) things to say when you're speaking to someone who is an abuse victim. 

1. "Why didn't you just say no?"

2. "What could you have done to prevent what happened?"

3. "A lot of abuse victims remember things being worse than they actually were."

4. "This stuff really isn't appropriate to talk about publicly."

5. "Did you do something to encourage the abuse?"

6. "Maybe there's a lesson somewhere in this for you."

7. "At least it wasn't as bad as it could have been."

8. "You know, this will probably make you stronger. Turn it into something good!"

9. "If you were so upset by what happened, why didn't you say anything sooner?"

10. "You should just forgive them and move on."


Here are 10 alternatives that could be helpful or healing to a victim, or at the very least help them to feel supported and cared for:


1. "I'm listening to you and I want to understand how you feel."

2. "What happened to you is not your fault."

3. "May I help you find local resources for a therapist when you're ready?"

4. "This didn't ruin you. You are still so worthy of love."

5. "You might have trouble remembering everything that happened to you. That's normal. Be patient with yourself."

6. "Please tell me how I can offer you support in the ways you need it most right now."

7. "It's okay to be angry about what happened."

8. "Are you in a safe environment now?"

9. "You are so brave to be talking about this. I know it must be really hard."

10. "You might not know exactly how you feel about everything right now and that's ok. I am here for you."

Comments

  1. Thank you, Natalie. May I propose 11 more things to never say?

    11. "You know, there are always two sides to every story."

    12. "Your own choices put you in a vulnerable position. What do you expect?"

    13. "You're imagining things--it wasn't the way your're remembering it."

    14. "You're exaggerating--it wasn't as bad as all that."

    15. "You're just trying to get attention."

    16. "I know that person (the abuser)! They're not like that to me! I can't imagine they would do that (say that) to anyone!"

    17. "Well, they (the abuser) were probably having a bad day--they didn't mean to hurt you like that."

    18. "I love that person (the abuser)! You'd better not expose them or I'll tell everyone what a rotten person YOU are and we'll destroy YOU!

    19. (Pretending to have empathy and respect for the victim--doesn't matter the words you use to fake it.)

    20. "Well, the Bible says..." in essence: victims should shut up and wait for God to vindicate them, which He will do when he's good and ready...in this life (think 400 years) or in the next.

    21. "You must be very strong (in God's eyes) for Him to have given you that much to handle."

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  2. Natalie, I've been following your blog for some weeks now and your story for a while longer than that. Like many who have left similar comments, I want you to know that I greatly admire you for how far you've come and for speaking out despite the continued attacks and harassment.

    I'm an abuse victim of sorts as well, but from the opposite end of the spectrum. And it's a different kind of abuse--spiritual and emotional rather than physical and sexual. My dad's a pastor, and some people (one person in particular) we thought were our friends in our church turned on him. To put it short, over the course of 2015 he was systematically lied about, abused, and isolated from members of the church, and finally the ringleader managed to get the council to fire him. I was also turned on and rejected by people I thought I knew and had worshiped with for the eight years we were here.

    And while the kind of abuse we endured was of a different sort from yours, we have been hearing some of the same stupid comments. From the list of things NOT to say to an abuse victim, we--and my dad in particular, of course--have heard 2, 6, 8, and 10. And we haven't heard 4 per se, but we do have to abide by a gag order lest he lose his severance package (the church has to abide by no such order and we've heard from friends still in or connected to it that the offending parties have gone on to further slander him since he's left).

    To the Anonymous above, we've heard things very like some of those too! 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, and 19 all resonate.

    I know this sentiment has been expressed plenty of times already, both here and elsewhere, but what a tragedy that such things go on in the church. For my part, I'm determined not to perpetrate such abuse or look the other way when I see it. I know what it feels like to be betrayed and rejected. And what it's like to have people who should be reaching out in compassion hold back because they don't want to be bothered with the truth (after all, they might have to confront the abuser and take a stand!). I never want to be in either group--I don't want to stomp on other people, and I don't want to stand by and do nothing while they get stomped on, either.

    Obviously, you're of the same mind, Natalie. I commend you, and I support the purpose of this blog. Keep writing! Meanwhile I'm going to look out for opportunities of my own to speak out for justice and truth and to support those who have been kicked around.

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  3. Also, "Think of all the good things (your abuser) did for you!"
    Autistic antibullying activist Cindy (I forget her last name, her secret name is streamofawareness) posted a video on this topic.
    Link CW: streamofawareness is Christian and posts a lot of choir videos. She also occasionally gives praise to God and talks about how he saved her life because, for her, church was a refuge from abuse rather than the cause of it. She doesn't really reference God on this video, but you may want to avoid the rest of her channel if you are triggered by hearing positive references to God, since she does so in quite a few videos.
    NEVER say this to an abuse victim
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IR_xffJPQz0

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  4. Thank you for writing this... every exposure helps someone carrying the burden.
    I'm sorry for you... it always seems like it should be over. And it never is.
    ---pamela

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  5. Thank you for speaking out. I hope that people take this list to heart so we can be active in the healing of victims!!

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  6. Thank you for your courage in sharing your story. I watched your video thru Godly Response to Abuse on Facebook. Do you know of any support groups for parents of children who were sexually abused?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your words of support! As far as resources for parents of children who were sexually abused, here a few online resources that you might find some helpful information on:

      http://www.pandys.org/secondarysurvivors.html

      http://www.curezone.org/forums/f.asp?f=62

      http://isurvive.org

      http://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/disclosure.pdf

      I hope some of that is helpful for you!

      -Natalie

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  7. 11. "It is OK to fight back when you have to. It is right and good to protect and defend yourself, to raise an outcry, and to seek justice against those who have hurt you."

    "All lives are different. All of them matter or none matter."
    --Stephen King, Insomnia Ch. 27, pt. 6, p. 684

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