We at Still Standing were challenged to find someone who helped us through the journey from victim to survivor, and ask if there was one thing that person learned that could help others who are still in the midst of travelling with someone on the same journey. This wasn’t an easy task for me because there were so many behind me. How could I pick just one? I narrowed it down to that one person who most surprised me (watch for the entire project here on the website), but I want to share the story behind my portion because I know there will be someone who is desperate to help a loved one, yet is afraid they will say/do the wrong things. Don’t be. Hit send.
We all have that one friend on Facebook that was a surprise to both of you. The one person you knew of growing up, but didn’t know. My one person and I attended the same small church that operated an even smaller Baptist school (there were 11 people in my graduating class). He is several years older than I am, and we never had any contact growing up.
It started by one of us commenting on a mutual friend’s post. A very unconventional friendship was born. By the time I was raped, he had become the (much) older brother I never had and always wanted. I was able to tell him just about everything and he never once wavered — at least that I knew. Maybe I feel safer “talking” to people whose existence is entirely within the confines of my laptop. I don’t have to look them in the eye, and they can’t see me fall apart.
When I asked him if there was one thing he took away from this journey that he felt was important for others to know, I was stunned when he said he didn’t know because he didn’t think he had done much. He had no idea what he had done, how he had pulled me back so many times from the edge. And instead of trying to re-write it, I’m just going to take advantage of the copy/paste feature.
Him (after I asked him what he thought he would say now if someone asked him for advice in talking to a victim of sexual assault):
To be honest…I’m going to struggle with this. What would I say–what would I do? I don’t know. I can share stuff with you and I think you and I can talk about it…because that’s us….but even then-I didn’t know how to approach you about it and when I did, I agonized over if I should even hit “send” to the message asking about it. And it took you a couple horribly long agonizing “what have I done??” days to respond.
He followed that up with if it happened to a friend’s wife or daughter, he would encourage them to go to the hospital and the police, and to find someone that had been through it to talk to. But for me, his answer was in his struggle, in his questioning of himself about what to say or to do. Within that doubt and agony I found the answer – and it was that he answered in spite of that doubt and agony. His concern for me was greater than his fear.
[W]hat you said in your first paragraph – that’s golden, my dear brother. Because you agonized over what to do, and you didn’t know what to do or what to say – but the beauty of it is – you hit send. You always hit send. You didn’t know how I would respond, you didn’t know if I would respond. You didn’t know if what you were sending would help me or hurt me, but you hit send. And that’s what you tell people if – God forbid – you are ever asked. You tell them they just hit send. Because you hit send and you saved me.
So when you are faced with what to do and you are so afraid of making the person feel worse or of ruining a good day or saying the wrong thing, know this:
Sometimes silence hurts worse than words because on the other end of that message is someone who may be drowning and is desperately struggling for a life vest. That day, you may be the only one with one to throw.
Hit send. Throw the vest. Save them.