The Stigma: Stay Quiet After Your Sexual Assault
Updated: Jan 3
You know when someone tells you to do or to not do something, you want to do the opposite? Well, after a sexual assault, you may have basically the whole world telling you to stay quiet about it. Why? Well, for starters: the investigation. Particularly if the perpetrator is still unknown (for example, if he concealed his identity and it didn't become known until DNA results came back). Also, if you talk about it, word might get around to the perpetrator that you told the secret that he threatened you to not tell. Yeah, the secret about how he ruined your life. Also, because you don’t want the fact to be known that you’re the victim. You still must hide because a) he could be watching and waiting, and b) because you don’t want to do or say anything that can be used against you in court. So, not only do you have to stay quiet, you have to privatize your life and your social media (which you should do anyway), which takes forever if you didn’t start off that way.
Oh, and let’s talk about work for a minute here. If you were harassed at work, then you really must stay quiet... (REPORT! Do not stay quiet in that manner!) You’re worried it might affect your job, how others treat you, and all of the other endless negative consequences! How could anyone ever believe that the super nice and oh-so-sweet man at work could ever sexually harass you?! You must by lying! There’s no proof! …Unless of course there was a witness that saw it and reported it. But still, you can’t openly talk about it at work because of all of the negative consequences, but for some reason despite the fact that he’s used his power and taken advantage of you, you still want to maintain normalcy (in his life) by not outing him. Far less drama at work if you just stay quiet, right?
But now you’re walking around with this black cloud over your head and you can’t talk about it or say anything, from either of the instances (or any of 5 situations for that matter!). But do other people see it, your black cloud? Can they see how it’s storming on you every single day even while you put on a happy face? Is it like having cancer and not being able to tell anyone?
Anyway, not talking about it is like an itch you can’t scratch. So here I am, anonymously spilling my guts.
From an outsider’s perspective… Who wants to hear about sexual assault anyway? It’s probably easier to read about it online and see it on TV when it has happened to someone you don’t know. But, to have a conversation about it with a friend or family member who is a survivor... When you have to listen to the heinous assault story and try to come up with the right thing to say... Yeah, I guess it does sound awful. So maybe it is best to keep quiet anyway, right, survivors?
Wrong! Establish a support person or support group. Find another outlet until court is over (if there is court), until you can safely talk about it. A blog? Podcast? Your spouse? Therapist? Talk! if you need to. I caution you though, not everyone wants to listen. Maybe you’ll be directed to talk to a therapist instead. And that hurts… so be prepared. But know that if you don’t have a support person to talk to, you can talk to me. I am here for you. I stand with you. And I believe you.
Ultimately, no. I am not telling you to be quiet. Not a bit. But for my particular current situation, I have to be until the dust settles and the jury or judge makes a decision. If you don't plan to "stay quiet," I would just suggest that you maintain professionalism, standards, boundaries, and respect for your own privacy. You do you, Boo.
If there isn’t court, well Honey, then you shout out to the world. And I will stand with you.