How to be a better ally to victims of sexual offenses

Header by Ina Jacobe

Don’t tell them how to share their stories.

Many victims have chosen to tell their stories publicly on social media, prompting others to opine that naming and shaming “ruins lives” and that they should handle matters privately instead. Here’s the thing: This is a major step for anyone. It’s never easy to relive your traumas, and it’s even more difficult to have to face your abuser again. Trying to engage them in an honest conversation is almost guaranteed to be a moot point, because they won’t listen and they could hurt you further.

Speaking out publicly also serves a practical purpose: it informs possible future victims and promotes safety. The Philippines does not currently have a law that requires the registration of convicted sex offenders, but such laws have been passed or are being considered in more than 20 countries.

One more thing: victims who take years to open up or choose not to name their abusers aren’t any less brave.

 

Speaking out publicly also serves a practical purpose: it informs possible future victims and promotes safety.

 

Don’t tell them how to handle their situations.

You can suggest that the victims take their abusers to court, or maybe even offer to help, because who doesn’t want these A-holes to pay? But it must be made clear that the justice system is flawed, and taking legal action can be emotionally and financially draining. It’s not helpful to force someone into such a long and tedious process when they’re not ready.

And you never, ever tell someone to just get over it and move on.

 

And you never, ever tell someone to just get over it and move on.

 

They weren’t being stupid or “easy,” nor were they “asking for it.”

A lot of the those who have come forward are minors, or were minors when the incident/s occurred. Responses to their accounts have included: “So why did you keep talking to him?” and “You knew what was going on and you clearly wanted it. Why are you changing your tune now?”

We forget how naive and impressionable teenagers can be. They could have been in denial that they were being victimized, or they could have reveled in the attention but could not grasp the manipulation and overall creepiness.They could have been afraid. The point is, there’s only one person in the wrong here, and that’s the abuser.

It also doesn’t matter one bit whether the victim dresses provocatively or is very open about sex. They still didn’t bring their fate upon themselves.

 

Keep a level head when your friend or fave is accused.

It’s a very difficult position to be in, having to grapple with the idea that someone you admired and thought highly of could be a complete monster. In the case of celebrities, their fans have held on a little too tightly to the human right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, going as far as to call the accusers names and to try to discredit or slut-shame them. But it’s a luxury that basic decency just cannot afford anymore — we’ve pointedly ignored and denied these claims for far too long, and in doing so, we’re just perpetuating a toxic and terrible culture. For this writer personally, it hasn’t been hard to write off an accused actor or musician entirely. No idol is worth abandoning your moral compass for.

When it comes to friends, it’s a bit harder to draw the line, and sometimes you can’t just sever ties after having known them for so long. Hopefully, the path you take doesn’t do a disservice to the alleged victims or condone their actions in any way, especially if you’re a man. It could be tough love in the form of a big talk, or it could be in ways that are smaller but just as impactful: calling them out when they make obscene or offensive comments; refusing not only to kiss and tell, but to listen to tales of their “conquests” as well; and maybe even pulling them away from people they could be touching inappropriately in public.

 

Never ask, “Are you sure he wasn’t just asking you out?” They’re not overreacting, and of course they’re doing it to gain sympathy — because they deserve just as much.

 

Listen and understand — more importantly, believe.

Repeat after us: Nobody has anything to gain from faking accusations, and nobody wants to be famous for being a victim. Statistics of false accusations of rape in the Philippines aren’t easy to come by; however, according to research materials reviewed by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the likelihood of a report being false ranges from two to 10 percent depending on the city or country. Moreover, according to anti-sexual violence organization RAINN, an estimated 66 percent of rape cases don’t get reported at all.

Informed consent is different from coercion. Stand by their word when they say they felt uncomfortable or violated, regardless of the other party’s intent. Never ask, “Are you sure he wasn’t just asking you out?” They’re not overreacting, and of course they’re doing it to gain sympathy — because they deserve just as much. Thank them for speaking out, and let them know you’re on their side.

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