On my tumblr, a Christian anon asked me to include the ways that Christians can help survivors. So here are the things I have put together for you:
-Make your own posts calling for Christians not to put up with the way Christian culture treats survivors. Bring conversations about sexual abuse and rape out of the dark.
-Support survivors when they talk about what happened to them. Make no judgments, do not tell them the ways they should be handling it. Let them be angry, let them be afraid, let them have PTSD.
- NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER IN A MILLION YEARS TALK ABOUT A SURVIVOR’S “SIN” AS IT RELATES TO THE ABUSE OR THEIR REACTIONS TO IT. IT IS NOT SINFUL TO BE ANGRY, OR AFRAID OR HAVE NIGHTMARES OR EVEN GO SO FAR AS TO WANT TO KILL THEIR ABUSER (just as long as they, of course, don’t). Many survivors feel so deeply violated to their core, to their soul. They have a right to be that angry.
-Don’t demand the survivor to forgive. Especially in the case of an unrepentant rapist. And don’t give them six different meanings of what forgiveness means either (i.e. “It means feeling at peace! It means being able to move on! etc.) as a way of making it so the survivor will say they forgive. And if they want to categorically reject all definitions of forgiveness, then they should have that right.
-Let them stay away from their abuser, and if it comes to a matter of their safety and support, ask the abuser to leave the church. Seriously. Because otherwise, they will have to be the ones to leave. Deciding that both have a right to be at the same church is deciding that the survivor that can’t handle the presence of their rapist has to leave, and that “neutral” ground is taking the rapist’s side.
-Also don’t go overboard the other way. If a survivor wants to forgive, wants to put it behind them, then be okay with that too. The key is to listen to the individual survivor and be concerned over their needs.
-Remember that everyone is an individual, and so are survivors. Being a survivor hasn’t removed our individual personalities, ways of reacting to things, and how we deal. No one survivor deals with their assault/rape the same way. And everyone’s journey to healing is different. It’s up to the survivor to decide how they want to heal, if they want to heal.
-Read up on literature on how to support to survivors, on rape culture, on the different ways that rapist function. I can link some posts right here:
Rape Culture 101 (Anti-feminist Christians, you’re just going to have to suck it up and deal if you want to help survivors)
-Cut out any and all sermons on modesty and abstinence until you can figure out a way not to shame survivors and place blame on any potential assault. And I say “cut out” because seriously, they are ALL messed up.
-Preach not to rape. I don’t care that you probably won’t find any scriptures of it (one sign that yes, there ARE some things in the Bible that are messed up, and yes, sometimes you NEED to go outside the Bible to teach things). Teach TRUE respect of people. Teach your boys that they can control themselves and “but she was wearing x” is meaningless, because if a girl walked into the church wearing NOTHING she is still deserves the respect of others; to not be touched or viewed as a sexual object. Teach that if a woman says, “I can carry this myself” that’s not a sign to mock her, but you respect her choices because you respect your individuality because teaching to override women’s wants on a small scale teaches them to override them for bigger things.
-Preach that rapists will not be tolerated. Make rapists afraid. I don’t care if that seems contradictory to Christian love, make the act of rape so abhorrent that rapists are afraid to even walk in the doors of a church. And if you’re concerned about the souls of rapists if you shy them away from church (but then they might not repent and be saved!) well, you let God worry about that.
-And since a lot of these are directed at religious leaders, I would say that for your average Christian, just talk. A lot of churches have small groups or homegroups or things. Talk in there. I remember our youth pastor would do meetings with the parents and he once had one where he told the parents of daughters that their daughters were dressing too revealing and causing the young men to stumble. That would have been perfect for someone to say, “Okay, well, can we also address that boys are responsible for their thoughts and actions and it is entirely their responsibility for what they do regardless of the way someone is dressed?”
-Talk to your kids, teach them that if someone does something to them it is not their shame, and they do not have to hide for the sake of other people. The only reason to keep quiet about what happened to them is if they want to keep quiet about it.
-Gossip spreads fast, we all know it. So counter other people’s opinions on rape and sexual abuse. Tell your fellow Christians how it’s not the survivor’s fault, how rape is never deserved. Bring it up. Even if you make other people uncomfortable, actually talk about it because you might be surprised at who, realizing that you’re comfortable with the topic, might confide in you.
-And for the last fucking time, believe survivors. I swear to you, in this culture, there is no benefit to go around “making up” rape stories. And just because you think Mr. Nice Christian Man over there would never do it, or because Mrs. Nice Christian Lady is ~gasp~ a woman or because the victim isn’t Perfect Wonderful Christian, or a guy or something doesn’t make your judgment right about the situations. Rapists are manipulative little fuckers, that’s how they do it. So make it clear that you will always believe them.