COLUMN: Sexual assault survivors don’t need your pity


Elise Keane, Columnist

CW: Sexual Assault

I am a survivor of childhood sexual assault. It’s a whole long story that usually shifts the mood and makes people feel bad. I guess for the most part the awkwardness is kind of unavoidable. No one wants to hear a story about a young girl who was groomed and brutally assaulted. At the same time, I don’t usually want to tell the story. 

For a while now, I have had a diagnosis of PTSD resulting from the trauma I experienced. This means that I suffer from flashbacks that I can’t hide if I am out with friends. Usually, I have to have a conversation surrounding what to do if I experience a flashback with the people closest to me.  

Flashbacks are some of the scariest things I have ever experienced. My whole world changes to the event where my trauma took place. My eyes only see the lush forest surrounding me and my attacker. It feels so real and vivid. There are things that I can do to prevent flashbacks from happening, but when they do come on I either have to wait them out or someone can help me. This starts with me telling people what happened and then the following PTSD diagnosis. 

Over the years I’ve found a common thread of responses: 

“Oh my god I am so sorry that must’ve been awful.”  

“I feel so bad for you.” 

“If there’s anything I can do to protect you let me know.” 

I know they are all well intentioned because what do you say to someone who’s experienced assault. I have experienced it myself and I am not exactly sure what to say most of the time. But I don’t need to hear that it was awful or that you feel bad for me because of course you do. The only things I ever really need to hear is, “I got you. If things get bad, I’m here.”   

It lets me know that you listened and that you care. I really don’t want to do the emotional labor of making you feel better about what happened to me. I know you feel bad about it and that you wish it never happened. I don’t necessarily want to do the work of letting you know that I’m okay now and that everything is all good now. If I tell you what happened to me, it means that I care about you, and I want you to know every part of me. I trust that you will listen and be there. 

It’s okay to feel bad about it but don’t make me ease your feelings about it. That is not my job as the survivor.  

Elise Keane is a sophomore neuroscience major. They can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].