Saturday, March 24, 2018

Sexual Assault: Aftermath

“It is fucking gut-wrenching to watch someone you know and love in the aftermath of a sexual assault. You want to help them, comfort them, convince them to go to the police, beat up their attacker, and protect them. That’s understandable and normal. It’s also not helpful.”

Hey friends. Let’s chat real quick.

As many of you know, this week MormonLeaks released a recording of former Mission Training Center president Joseph Bishop confessing to sexually assaulting several women during his time presiding over the MTC (without the consent of any of these women, which is why we're not linking to it, but it can be easily found). The Mormon Church was apparently made aware of Mr. Bishop’s conduct at several times but he was reportedly never disciplined and that matters were never adequately investigated.

At the same time, authorities in several countries are in the midst of investigating claims that the Jehovah’s Witnesses neglected to report child sexual abuse to the proper authorities and even went so far as to cover up abuse cases.

We’re not going to re-hash that all here. There are plenty of news articles about both of these circumstances and you can certainly browse the numerous threads on r/exmormon and r/exjw discussing the matters.

Let’s talk about #MeToo. Let’s talk about the threads that other people made after the recording was released – threads about their own sexual assaults at the hands of authority figures, missionary companions, and even family members. Let’s talk about the threads where people witnessed or knew about sexual assaults but were pressured to keep quiet or didn’t know how to properly respond.

This a hard topic. It’s painful. We don’t like to talk about this kind of stuff. But we need to do it.

For people supporting survivors of assault

It is fucking gut-wrenching to watch someone you know and love in the aftermath of a sexual assault. You want to help them, comfort them, convince them to go to the police, beat up their attacker, and protect them. That’s understandable and normal. It’s also not helpful.

Sexual assault can be an intensely violating and deeply personal experience. As much as you want to help, this is not about you. You cannot make it about you and your desires to help. The best way you can support a survivor is to let them decide what you can do to support them. Ask them how they would like you to handle things. They may not want to discuss their experience or they may want to open up. They may want help going to the police or they may not want to report it. This is their decision. You help by respecting their wishes.

  • Offer to support survivors in whatever way is most comfortable for them, even if that support is to give them space. Remind them of the resources available to help them.
  • Emphasize that assault is not their fault. Recognize that it took a lot of courage for them to confide in you.
  • Make a note of their mental health status. Sexual assault can evoke a huge range of emotions and responses. If a survivor expresses their intent to commit suicide, please refer to the Suicide Awareness Series so that you know how best to respond.
  • Believe them. Certain, cesspit-ty parts of Reddit enjoy pushing the narrative that false rape accusations are rampant. In reality, the false accusation rate for sexual assault is on par with false accusations for every other crime. Do not express skepticism or doubt in front of a survivor.
Do not:
  • Victim blame. Do not suggest that if they had only dressed a certain way/stayed home/didn’t flirt/didn’t sleep around/watched their drink/said no/screamed for help that they would not have been assaulted. It’s not helpful and it only adds to the feelings of guilt and shame that survivors may be experiencing.
  • Push survivors to report their assault. You can suggest it gently, but reporting or not is their decision. Keep in mind that in many cases, survivors have reported that a police investigation, litigation, and trial can be just as violating and exhausting as the assault itself.
  • Express your desire to, or actually, harm their attacker. You help no one if you are arrested for assault and battery and in many cases can add to survivors’ trauma.

For survivors of assault:

We are so, so sorry that you experienced a sexual assault. We are here to talk with you if you need us to, or to just sit with you quietly if that’s what you want. You guide this, not us. You have the power and control here.

In the aftermath of an assault, many people have a lot of advice for what you should do, or think, or feel, or say. We’ve got some advice too: Fuck that noise. You get to decide how you would like to respond. You get to decide what you want to think or feel – and it’s okay not to know what to think or feel. You can report your assault or not as you choose. We’re here for you. We support you.

  • Keep in mind the many resources available to support you in the aftermath of a sexual assault. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) has a ton of tools on their website and the national 24/7 hotline is 800-656-4673. (NOTE: outside the USA, you can call an 800 phone number for free using Skype)
  • Take care of yourself. Self-care is critical, especially your mental health. At some point, you might find it helpful to visit a therapist who can help you unpack your experience and find mechanisms to cope with any of guilt, fear, or shame you may be feeling. You don’t have to do it alone if you don’t want to.
  • Think about whether or not you want to report your assault to the police. If you do choose to report, please keep in mind that there is a limited window in which DNA evidence can be collected and that may help your case. RAINN has some guidance for reporting to law enforcement.

    Think you are alone in this. Being assaulted can be scary and isolating, but there are kind, caring people who want to make sure that you know that you are valuable and loved. The Tapir/Sparlock Signal cannot provide legal advice or monetary assistance, but we can talk with you if you want or help you find the tools to navigate the aftermath of assault.

A Few Resources:


National Alliance to End Sexual Assault and Violence (provides list of local resources for each U.S. State and territory):

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (expertise and information on resources and sexual assault statistics:

Ending Violence Association of Canada (provides resources by province):

IF you need help finding more resources specific to your location, reach out to us and we will try to help you find what you need.

Usually here we let people know we are always looking for volunteers but we're going to deviate from that today. We stand in solidarity with the survivors and victims of sexual abuse and violence. Not just in word either and we will do whatever we can to help. We are not professionals, we are normal-ish people, like most of you. We lend an ear, a hand, and do what we can to help, including putting those that would like in contact with people trained to help you get through this. You're not alone.

If you are in need of help, you can reach us here.

If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-784-2433 (outside the US, these calls are free via Skype).

If you are LGBT+ and need to talk, please contact the LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564 or find them online here.

Know you are safe and among friends and we will do whatever we can to help.

Lastly, if you would like to be involved or volunteer, you can reach out to us here.

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