How to Really Help Rape Survivors: #NowWhat

Rape survivors need you to get it.

ColumnThere are a lot of people who have opinions concerning how a person can prevent getting raped.

The fact is, though, the only person who can prevent rape is the potential rapist. But there are still many people who think that a person can stop a rape by not doing certain things, namely the recommendations that women can decrease their chance(s) of being raped if they stop dressing so suggestively. The other common suggestion is for women to not drink to excess. And while drinking excessively is generally not a good idea (for numerous reasons), plenty of stone cold sober women are raped all the time. In fact, alcohol is only involved in rape cases about half the time.

This past week, Laura Herrick, a Kansas City Star columnist, wrote a column about how women can prevent getting raped. The column’s title? “Women can take action to prevent rapes.” Yes, because women are the only ones who get raped… Anyhow, the piece gets worse from there.

The KC Star received a lot of negative feedback about the piece and eventually removed it from its website. The Star’s publisher also printed this piss-poor apology. Luckily, another local paper—one I used to work for—read, saved, and reported about the piece.

So, here it is. Herrick’s advice to women concerning rape prevention:

I saw a quote on Facebook that said, “When a woman drinks too much she expects to wake up the next day hung over, not raped.” I agree. But as women, shouldn’t we take responsibility for our bodies by not becoming so intoxicated that we don’t know what is happening? Every woman should know her drink limit and stop there. No, she’s not asking to be raped by being drunk. But isn’t it her responsibility to reduce the risk by not getting to that point? And if you wake up the morning after doing the ‘walk of shame’ don’t yell rape if you regret your actions of the night before. Accept your role in what happened, learn from the experience and move on.

Yeah.

Sadly, Herrick’s thoughts aren’t uncommon because rape culture is alive and well in America.

However, there are plenty of people in this country who do want to help rape victims of all genders feel safe, accepted, and loved. So, to help the people who are willing to learn, thus making rape culture a thing of the past, we’ve constructed a list of resources that can help anyone become a rape survivor ally:

1. Research available resources

Check out RAINN, the United States’ largest, anti-sexual violence organization. The site is filled with information for sexual assault survivors and the people who love them. Resources include a sexual assault hotline and a chat service, as well as therapy options, tips concerning reporting sexual assault, etc.

Most communities have an organization that’s dedicated to serving sexual assault survivors and their allies. (You can Google the name of your city plus “sexual assault survivor” to get ideas.) Most universities and colleges have these types of organizations, too.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Mental Illness Happy Hour is a great podcast. As a survivor, it’s helped me normalize my experience and understand why I still experience some of the thoughts and feelings I have. This is also a great resource for people who are trying to understand how rape survivors feel after the fact. While everyone’s experience is different, hearing different stories can provide a lot of insight.

2. Check in with your partner

Dating someone who’s a rape survivor? There’s plenty of things you can do to make sure your relationship is full of healthy, open dialogue concerning sex.

Things to remember:

– Consent can be revoked at any time: If your partner says okay to something and then tells you to stop, you need to stop. It’s that person’s right—as well as your right—to revoke consent at any moment during sex.

– It’s not your fault if your partner has a flashback: This will happen. When it does, ask your partner what he needs. If he wants to talk, talk. If he wants to be left alone, leave the room and give him some space. Just keep the line of communication open and blame-free.

– Have an open sex life: Talk about what feels good and what makes your partner tick. Better understanding your partner can help both of you maintain a healthy sex life.

3. Consider sex therapy

Sometimes it’s helpful to bring a professional into the mix. (You can find a therapist by Googling “sex therapist” and your location.) Don’t like the first therapist you go to? Find another one. Never settle when it comes to finding the perfect therapist.

4. Understand the facts

Husbands can rape wives, etc.: Marriage doesn’t give anyone the right to their partner’s body.

Men can get raped: Women can rape men, men can rape men, and women can rape women. Many people think that a vagina and a penis have to be involved for rape to occur. Not so! Rapists are creative people and can find many ways to violate any human they come across.

Rape isn’t about sex, it’s about violence: “She just wasn’t putting out, so I had to get it myself,” is not a valid excuse. If someone forces sex on another person, it’s because the rapist wanted to get violent.

Date rape is real.

Rape doesn’t have to be violent to be real.

It may take a survivor many years to accept what happened to her was rape.

If you drink and then get raped, it’s not your fault. It’s the rapists’ fault.

If you wear a short skirt and get raped, it’s not your fault. It’s the rapist’s fault.

If you run around naked and then get raped, it’s not your fault. It’s the rapist’s fault.

If you say “no” during sex, but your partner doesn’t stop, that’s rape and, you guessed it. It’s not your fault.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a start. So, come on, rape survivor allies. Let’s spread the truth and shut these rape culture perpetrators down for good.

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Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy! Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.