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June 15, 2016

The Importance of Believing Survivors

It’s 3:00am on any given night of the week and the phone rings - again. The volume is turned up to a deafening level. I leap out of bed.

“We have a woman here that needs you.”

I arrive and am greeted by two sets of eyes – she’s brought a loved one with her. Good, I think. She hasn’t been sitting here alone.

I can’t read what she’s feeling in that first look. Shock, trauma, and confusion look different on everyone. But that other set of eyes always meets me with a familiar pleading stare that’s saying, What do I do? How do I help her?

If I were talented in telepathy, you’d hear my mantra all the way down the hall:

Just believe her.

Here’s what you need to know about the person you loved that has just experienced a terrifying trauma - she had a choice. She could have told no one. Many of us make that choice.

But she told you. Even though she feared judgment and felt vulnerable, she told you. She told you even though she’s afraid we’re all wrong – that it is her fault.

It’s not.

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to be able to tell someone you have been raped. It’s never easy.

If someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, they feel safe with you. They trust that you can be the calm during the chaos.

You don’t have to be a trained professional to listen with compassion. You don’t have to be a counselor or a crisis worker; there are people who do those jobs. I do that job.

If someone breaks their silence and tells you they have been sexually assaulted, this is your only job:

Believe her, and call us.

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