Having experienced sexual assault is one of the most traumatic life events that can happen to anyone. On top of that, it is unfortunately common that people in the persons life will not believe them about their sexual assault and rape.
Others will often question if the trauma survivor is telling the truth, exaggerating what happened or if it was the trauma survivors fault that the sexual assault happened. Others will often question that the trauma survivor is telling the truth, exaggerating or if it was the trauma survivors fault that this happened.
As a trauma therapist and also a survivor myself, I have seen firsthand how common is that friends, family and acquaintances do not believe the survivor.
You would think that with the #metoo #believesurvivors and #nomore movements That people would be past questioning survivors trauma. But unfortunately it still happens all the time. And this is just stacking trauma on top of trauma further survivor who needs nothing but full support, compassion and healing.
So the question remains, why do friends and family members not believe a survivor about sexual assault?
Below I have listed the top FIVE reasons why friends and family members downplay, minimize, question, gaslight or just flat out don’t believe survivors.
1. The overwhelming guilt of not protecting their loved one. If family’s members/friends truly believed the truth that their loved one was raped or sexually assaulted, some of them would not be able to function living with the guilt that they could not protect their loved one. Guilt and shame are powerful emotions and they are some of the most difficult emotions to feel. Even though it’s selfish to not believe in fully support trauma survivors, sometimes these coping skills that our friends and family members have are unconscious. We unconsciously avoid pain all the time. This is a common human experience AND an important reminder that it is not about the trauma survivor at all but more about the other people.
2. They have their own unhealed past trauma. Generational trauma is extremely real and what this means is that there can often be abuse, sexual assault and trauma that happens for generations and generations in a family. When someone comes out with the truth and is extremely brave – it creates a dilemma for those around them who have been suppressed their trauma. Sometimes friends and family members gaslight or question the survivors sexual assault because that is what they’ve done to themselves in order to survive. Yet again, this is a reminder that the not believing is not about the trauma survivor at all.
3. They are scared that it will hurt their reputation. This reason is one of the most insidious because it’s not about the person protecting themselves from shame and guilt, protecting themselves from dealing with their own trauma but more about the other person’s ego. This one tends to hurt the trauma survivor deeply because the friend or family member is trying to protect their image over their loved ones well-being. It can also cause the sexual assault survivor to begin to feel shame that maybe there is something wrong with them because this happened. It can also shame or coerce survivors into hiding their truth in order to “protect the family.”
4. They want to keep the perpetrator in their life. This reason comes up often if the person that committed the sexual assault is a friend or family member. For this reason, friends and family members often choose the route of complete denial because they do not want to cut the friend or family member that committed the sexual assault out of their life. This could be because of extremely codependency, coercion, fear, financial dependence, don’t want to “break up” the family, fear conflict, fear of change, sexual dependence and more. This reason is retraumatizing and can create some really intense resentments against the friends choosing the abusers side. This reason for not believing the trauma survivor can feel so painful, hurtful and lonely.
5. They were manipulated by the abuser to invalidate the trauma survivor. It’s also happens when the abuser is known by friends and family. Perpetrators tend to be extremely good at manipulating other people and webbing together lies that will benefit them. They can do this by trying to make the trauma survivor seem like a liar, that they wanted it, that it’s a cry for attention, that they are jealous, or mentally unstable. If the perpetrator is able to successfully convince others that the sexual assault victim is lying, then they save their reputation and also have the opportunity to do it again. This reason is extremely dangerous to the trauma survivor and put them at risk.
I want to tell you that I BELIEVE YOU. It is extremely uncommon for assault survivors to lie. It is brave to be truthful about your assault and I am SO sorry if you were not believed. It was not about you.
If you have any more questions about friends and family members not believing survivors or trauma therapy please reach out via the Metta Holistic Therapy contact page or email me directly at email@example.com – if you’re in crisis or an emergency please call 911.