When we begin to tell our histories, it is almost inevitable that we will run across someone who doesn’t believe that what happened to us is sexual trauma.
This post will both cover what to do if someone doesn’t believe you- and how to deal with the possibility of it.
Prepping to tell someone:
- If you’ve already told someone (even if it’s a therapist or someone over the internet)- it can help to talk to them again and reaffirm where you’re at.
- Write down what you want to say/rehearse what you want to say. Occasionally the disbelief isn’t intentional- it’s a ‘what’ in response to confusion and we take it as ‘oh no they don’t believe me and I should never speak up again’ versus ‘I was talking 90 miles an hour and they really had no idea what was said and are just trying to figure it out’
- Know that one person not believing you doesn’t change what happened.
- Practice setting boundaries. Know that you can walk away at any time. You do not have to sit and listen to someone invalidate you.
- Try scoping out how a specific person you want to tell will react. Find out their views on rape. Bring up cases in the news, or plots in books, or ‘a friend of a friend of a friend told me’- whatever it takes for you to feel comfortable and know ‘okay, this person doesn’t automatically assume survivors are liars.’
- Make a plan for what you will do if they say they don’t believe you. Will you try to correct them? What will you say? At what point do you walk away?
- Make a plan for what you will do after you leave the situation. Who will you go to for support? Where will you seek validation? Will you need to manage symptoms?
- Self care. Self soothe. I cannot say this enough.
During the event:
-It’s always a good idea to start out by setting boundaries if you can. Even before someone expresses their dis/belief in what you say.
-You are allowed to go ‘I want to tell you something, and if you choose not to believe me- I really don’t want to hear about it.’
-You are allowed to say, ‘I am going to tell you something, and I don’t want to answer questions about it. It’s hard enough talking about it as is.’
-You are allowed to print off articles and ask them to read it- articles that talk about why it’s harmful to ask ‘how do you know?’ or ‘well if it was really rape/abuse you would have ____’ or ‘why didn’t you _____?’
- If they start asking questions, you are allowed to cut them off and say ‘That is a really inappropriate thing to ask’
- If they start telling you that it wasn’t really trauma- you are allowed to correct them, and you are also allowed to say, ‘what you are saying is hurting me.’
- You are allowed to walk away completely.
After the event:
-Self care. Self soothe. Emotionally vent. Whatever you need to do.
-Talk to other survivors.
-If you have people who already know and believe you, talk to them. You are allowed to reach out to them for validation. You are allowed to say ‘someone just told me that it wasn’t really trauma will you please remind me that it is’
- Know that one person, ten people, half the world thinking that what happened to you wasn’t trauma- doesn’t mean it wasn’t. There will always be people who will argue that the grass is blue. There will be people who have hurt others, and don’t want to admit your trauma- because it means accepting that they hurt others. There will be people who will argue because they think it’s okay to debate other people’s trauma. None of this reflects on you.
- It can help to have a mantra. ‘What happened to me is valid’. ‘What happened to me is real whether or not other people recognize it as so’. ‘No one but me can define my lived experiences’. Whatever you need it to be. Have it written on a sticky note. Have it in your phone or on your mirror.
- It can help to have a folder with articles, or validating posts. Things that remind you that there are plenty of people out here who do believe that what happened to you was trauma and that you have every right to your pain and every right to heal at your own pace.