By Cheryl, Volunteer Advocate and Support Group Facilitator
“I shouldn’t have been drinking that night.”
“I shouldn’t have worn that top.”
“I shouldn’t have been in that place.”
These are comments I often hear from survivors of sexual assault in the support group I facilitate. Many survivors encounter these messages – directly or indirectly – and feel they must blame themselves for having been raped or assaulted. I work with the group on many things, one of which is to help survivors recognize that a victim of sexual assault is never to blame.
No one walks into a situation intent on being abused or assaulted. It is not the victim’s responsibility to prevent the assault. The person committing the assault is the only one who is wrong, and he/she is the one who needs to evaluate their behaviors and beliefs, and be held accountable for their actions – not the victim.
Coming to a support group for the first time can be intimidating for many people. It can be especially daunting for a victim of sexual assault to come forward and seek help. The victim is afraid of being judged and being told that she/he “shouldn’t have been…” doing whatever supposedly “caused” the assault. But the victim never causes the assault. It is because of that misdirected blame that so many victims don’t feel safe reporting the assault to law enforcement, or even telling their closest family or friends. It is also a major roadblock in their path to recovery.
At the Hope & Healing Sexual Violence Recovery Support Group we offer a place where it is ok to open up and share thoughts or feelings about the assault. It is a welcoming environment and there is no judging. Everyone is there because they want to heal from within. They hear the voices and shared experiences of other survivors and feel an immediate kinship with them. Their feelings of self-blame are quickly put to rest as others reassure them that it was not their fault.
I want to recognize and honor the participants of this group for their courage and strength. It takes a great deal of both characteristics to come forward and share their stories. They make themselves vulnerable to the group in order to find hope and healing along with the others. In the time that I have spent co-facilitating this amazing group, I have learned so much about the human spirit and the strength of survivors. I am proud to be associated with an organization like Alexandra House that provides the tools for healing.
Click here for more information about all Alexandra House’s support groups.