Online Sexual Assault Resources
September 7, 2016 11:01 PM   Subscribe

What is a good online resource for my friend, who might have been raped? (triggers, yo)

In a strange turn of a conversation, my friend basically described how she was sexually assaulted (and may have been raped). There were a lot of details missing; she says she hardly remembers the event at all. She seemed so, so far away as the conversation turned into a startling, horrifying monologue. A assault began, then she 'blacked out'.

[this was not recent, she did not know the perpetrator, there is zero chance of law enforcement even being involved]

She described being paralyzed - couldn't move, speak, or resist in any way. She described feeling, "so completely weak." There was clearly a shitload of inappropriate guilt about her inaction.

I have read that the 'paralyzed' response is not uncommon.

So...help? I really, really want my friend to not feel so alone, and responsible - for having had this response. Or for any of it. At all.

Is there anything *specific* that I can point her to? I *do not* want to hand her a giant list of vaguely related links full of all kinds of triggering bullshit that *might* be useful.

Input from professionals or experienced hotline/crisis center staff seems right. Maybe input from your personal experience. If you are a man, seriously dude? Think twice.
posted by j_curiouser to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
RAINN has online people to listen and can direct help in her area. Pandys.org is a healthy survivor support group. Does she want this help though or are you in fix it mode in shock of what you heard? Pushing a survivor to get help or expecting them to need therapy is an overstep many allies make.
posted by kanata at 11:05 PM on September 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Some specific articles on the freeze/paralysis response from Vice and from WaPo. Don't read the comments. Maybe literally just copy paste the articles themselves, but don't read the comments.

A blog post on "Yes Means Yes" instead of "No Means No." It looks at how “just say no” is basically a departure from every other refusal we're conditioned to give, and how people (and women especially) give "soft" refusals all the time in other contexts: I'm too full, I'm swamped at work, etc. People still understand these "soft" refusals as refusals, which might be useful if she's blaming herself for not yelling "no."

But yeah--see what she's ready for. It might take time. And be careful. Saying things like, "you said no, right?" or assuming she didn't participate at all (even in an auto-pilot, super detached, and purely out of fear way) can be really damaging if her experience doesn't match what you're projecting. You could say things like, even though we're taught to fight or yell no, sometimes that doesn't happen. Sometimes our bodies won't do it, sometimes we're so conditioned to do other things. It doesn't mean you let it happen or you wanted it to happen or what he did was okay. Then point her to links.
posted by loulou718 at 11:37 PM on September 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


You are so kind for wanting to be there for your friend. Do you know if she wants any specific resources? I really commend you for stepping up for your friend, but it's also really necessary to see what she's needing and saying. Maybe she isn't concerned that her response was or wasn't "normal" - she might see that as a way for you to tell her that she should feel like it was not normal. That's not at all what you're saying, but trauma can be a lonely, dark place, and the support you are able to give, or the support you think she needs, may not be what she needs.

For you and your friend: RAINN has an online hotline (https://hotline.rainn.org) that works like a gchat or instant messenger. They can help you with links to things that would help support you, and help you think about how you can support your friend.

They can also be reached at 1-800-656-HOPE.

I hope you're doing well, and I'm so sorry to hear about what happened to your friend. Please take care of yourself so that you can be there for her. That sounds trite and useless, but it is so important.

(I was a hotline staffer at RAINN several years back; I now work on other crisis lines.)
posted by quadrilaterals at 6:47 AM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was sexually assaulted and raped years ago when I was a young teen. The things that kept me paralyzed with guilt for at least a decade were that in a hippy-dippy way I willingly went with someone I don't know to his apartment, and that afterward I didn't tell my parents or report it to the police. I mean, he probably went on to do that to someone else, and that just haunted me. And the going willingly with the guy, yeah, that changed. He threatened me with an ice pick! He made me thank him for teaching me not to wear shorts and a halter top in the dead of summer!

But like I said, I did nothing about it because I just didn't know what to do or how to help myself. I didn't fight him off and didn't have bruises to show the police. I felt somehow complicit in my own rape because I'd gone with the guy and worn a cute outfit and Should Have Known Better.

Finally I got so tired of refusing to admit that I was fucked up because of it that I sought therapy. After about 8 months of really good therapy I can rephrase that to the rape fucked up my sense of myself, not the real me. I needed to revisit the ways it violated me before I could put away my guilt and shame, with a skilled and sensitive therapist. Therapy isn't magic, you do have to trust your therapist, and you do have to go back and talk about the incident and revisit your feelings. I did it because it finally seemed less awful than not doing it. For me it has made a tremendous difference and I am forever grateful both that I did it, and for the therapist who was so wonderful.

I suspect your friend has not sought therapy, or at least hasn't really been ready to commit to it. I suspect she would not describe herself as being in crisis, especially if this happened a long time ago. It took me about 10 years, until my mid twenties to face the fact that the rape actually had power over me and I needed to revisit it and work through my feelings to get the upper hand. The very fact that she told you about this and described how she felt paralyzed and powerless are clues that this is haunting her in important ways. She may tell herself she can ignore this incident because she's been able to go to school, have a job, have friends, make money, etc. I did too. It's possible she was actually drugged and really was paralyzed! For me it was in relationships where I was at sea, which seems to be pretty common, especially when relationships become sexual quickly.

I had a couple of very good friends I had confided in, and their encouragement was important to me. I wanted to keep everything the same but feel more comfortable in my own skin, more in control of my relationships and less angry about how these unwanted feelings kept sabotaging my relationships. Support from friends while I investigated and then began therapy was encouraging and I'm still friends with those people. Maybe you can be this kind of friend to her!
posted by citygirl at 3:37 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Does she want this help though or are you in fix it mode
this was useful to hear, just as a 'check'

specific articles on the freeze/paralysis response from Vice and from WaPo. Don't read the comments. Maybe literally just copy paste the articles
copy-pasted

RAINN has an online hotline (https://hotline.rainn.org) that works like a gchat or instant messenger. They can help you with links to things that would help support you, and help you think about how you can support your friend.
i am keeping this in my back pocket. if further discussion occurs, i'll make it available.

Support from friends while I investigated and then began therapy was encouraging and I'm still friends with those people. Maybe you can be this kind of friend to her!
i hope to be. taking a very passive approach for now. if more opening up occurs, it won't be because i pushed too hard.

thanks to all!
posted by j_curiouser at 10:10 AM on September 10, 2016


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