I had the most awful moment of awkward silence a few months back, a woman whom I had been speaking to and counselling about her career and job – just blurted – “I was raped…”
This is a 23 year old woman who has been struggling to hold down 1 job and juggle a possible degree! She has always had this haunted and almost vacant look about her – which I could never explain!
The discussion that day was me scolding her for not taking her life seriously – and I was actually reprimanding her – when she had been bunking her evening classes….
And she said the “R” word – and that lead me to the discovery that I lacked the vocabulary to speak to her!
So WHAT should you say/not say or do/not do when someone close to you or someone comes up and says “I was raped….”
A woman in PAIN!
- Say NOTHING for the first few mins – and encourage her to speak. The best you can add is “OMG” and just hold her hand.
- DO NOT say you understand – YOU don’t and can’t possibly understand if you haven’t been raped.
- Do not speak of kismat and fate – thats like telling someone that she was fated to “die a slow death”
- Do not ask WHO raped you – allow her to tell you if she wants to
- Do not ask HOW it happened! Accept that it just did…. and if she wishes to tell you – let her…
- Definitely do NOT pepper your conversation with “what were you wearing” or “what time it was”
- You need not ask if she has told anyone else – she will express it herself
- Remember you a dealing with a very raw emotion – which is almost animal like in its nature…. a wounded animal. This conversation YOU are having is NOT something she or you planned…. so go with the flow….
- HOLD HER HAND! Thats it…. no hug till she wants it….
- Ask her WHAT you can do to help…. and let her tell you…
I had this moment – and it took me sometime to snap into a sensible conversation…. only to kick myself into thinking – oh god….what the hell am I saying….
A little about me – I have been working with wounded and battered women for the last 8 years…. and YET I find it near impossible to get the right words out each time….everytime….
Each day and each experience with a woman who has been battered and abused is NEW….
There is NO FAQ of what exactly to react…..BUT these are some guidelines…..
You are dealing with a wounded bird – be gentle!
May You Have the Strength to Make that Wounded Bird Fly Again!