Things you should never say to a sexual assault survivor

Sometimes, some things are just better left unsaid.

While some people may get the right things to say, others may end up achieving the complete opposite; and some may just not be as sympathetic towards that person when they need it the most.

One particular situation that could leave one tongue tied is in the case of sexual assault. The growing rape culture within Kenya is extremely worrying and the insensitive responses towards sexual assault and rape is completely baffling at times.

For some it may be that they are unaware of how their words affect that sexual assault survivor but for others it may seem that they couldn’t care less about how their words are perceived or even how that survivor may have gone through and probably still is going through – which is very unfortunate.

Here are some things you should definitely never say to a sexual assault survivor.

Asking for every detail

Asking a survivor to give you every single detail about their rape could only translate one way to them; you don’t believe them.

That kind of skepticism is the last thing that they need at that time. Speaking about it in the first place is hard enough and adding salt to injury by digging deeper into what happened to them doesn’t really help the situation.

It’s up to them to decide whether they want to tell you everything that happened or not so don’t push it.

Are you sure it was rape?

The question itself just sounds absolutely ridiculous. What do you mean, are you sure it was rape? Is there a different definition for forcefully abusing someone? Bottom line is, just don’t say this to a sexual assault survivor.

Excusing the fact that the person may have been raped because they were in a relationship with their perpetrator.

Yes, it is still rape. That person did not consent to it regardless of whether they were in a relationship or not. They did not say ‘yes’.

It is important to note that majority of sexual assaults are done by someone that the person knows. Could be an uncle, auntie, parent, sister cousin, friend, boyfriend or girlfriend.

What were you wearing?

This only comes out as if you’re trying to shift the blame to the survivor. What they wore had nothing to do with them being sexually assaulted. Some people may have been fully covered but still ended up as rape victims.

Did you say no?

Again, it comes out as if you’re trying to partially shift the blame to the victim.

Have you had sex since it happened?

None of your business at all.

Did you fight harder?

This is just plain insensitive and a bit tasteless to be honest. Rape survivors already feel bad that they couldn’t fight harder to stop what happened to them so asking them why they didn’t fight harder could basically just be like asking them why they didn’t make sure it didn’t happen to them – not cool.

Why didn’t you report it?

Speaking about sexual assault is not an everyday conversation that one would like to repeat narrating over and over again – unless they choose to and even then, it would still require quite an amount of courage to relive that moment all the time.

So don’t be so quick to pass judgment on rape survivors for not reporting to the authorities at first. It’s not easy.


Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: