What to do when no one believes you… Healing from sexual assault and sexual violence

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Few people would believe you if you told them there is something worse than rape, but there is: it’s finally finding the courage to speak up – to tell someone that you’ve been raped – only to be called a liar.

“All girls cry rape.”

“Guys can’t get raped.”

How many times have you heard someone say something like this? Dismissive comments hurt, especially when the victim just needs someone to talk to. Because, as they say, talking is the best therapy, so long as you can trust you’ll be listened to. Heard. Believed.

Being disbelieved is a survivor’s greatest fear.

According to Rape Response Services (RRSonline.org), there are “many different ways perpetrators use sexual violence to hurt their victims and there are many different ways in which people respond to sexual violence.” It does not matter if your trauma happened according to the rules that other people would agree upon. It does not matter if they would consider what happened to you as rape.

You know what happened because it happened to you and you were there. Not them. And it’s still bothering you because rape is an enormous challenge to heal from. If you’ve been hurt by someone not believing you, tell them this: according to The National Coalition Against Sexual Assault “false rape reports only happen 2% of the time.” That means 98% of the time someone is telling the truth. You’re telling the truth. You just need someone to talk to who will believe you. It’s the best way to heal.

Call a Sexual Assault Center: it’s a good place to start.

If you’re afraid that no one will believe you – or you’ve already found that the one person you entrusted with your story does not – go to a validated and trusted source of support for sexual abuse survivors. People at national and local sexual assault organizations are trained to not only help you handle the trauma, but also be there for you in support. If you have no one else to talk to, or are too afraid of being shut down by not being believed, start here. Call someone who you know will listen and start the conversation of your healing.

Don’t let the fear that others won’t believe you get in the way of finding the help and support you need.

You need help. You need support. And everyone is different.

Don’t let the fear of someone not believing you stop you from finding that one family member of friend who will. Or don’t let them stop you from seeking out professional help from a trained sexual assault volunteer or counselor. There are people out there, just for you. And they will believe you. Rape doesn’t happen in just one way to just one type of person and they understand that. Once you find someone to talk to who believes you, you can ask them to be involved in helping you talk to others who won’t, if you feel you need to tell all to help you heal. Everyone is different. Heal in your own way.

Don’t let other people’s perception or reaction deter you from speaking up and seeking help.

Out of a handful of people you might tell in your lifetime, some will believe you and others will not. It’s just the way it is. People often times have a set belief system in place, long before you speak up, that inhibits them from understanding, listening or even hearing you when it comes to rape. They will only believe what they believe to be true. But you don’t let their perception of what rape is or their reaction to hearing you speak about your experience stop you from healing. What one person or even a handful of people say of your story is not your story.

Be in control.

You own your story. This happened to you. Someone took away your control and you will get it back, right? So be the one in control of who you tell, how you tell, when you tell someone about your trauma. You pick the time, the place, the person. And you set up boundaries with yourself beforehand of how much information you want to give out and to whom. Some people will be able to hear it all and be there for you. Others will only be able to handle an ounce of what you’ve been through. And that’s okay. That is their reaction. Not yours. Do not allow their reaction – good or bad – be part of how you feel about what happened to you. Keep your story safe with you and only give out what you are comfortable telling. And to whom you are comfortable telling it to.

If there are some people in your inner circle that you don’t trust to believe you, don’t tell them. You do not owe anyone. You don’t have to tell anyone you don’t want to. This happened to you, so take charge in a way that helps you feel more in control over what happened. And even if you can only find one person who believes you and will listen, don’t let that get in the way of your healing. Sometimes all it takes is one person to be there for you to open the door within you that will lead you to a path of better healing. Whatever you chose to do, do what you need to do to stay in control and heal.

It’s okay to wait until you feel safe.

If you’ve just been assaulted or raped, report it ASAP. The authorities will help you find the support you need. But what do you do when it’s been years and it’s still eating at you? You still have the details and emotions rumbling in you?

Or what if you’re like me and you’ve talked until those who were there just don’t want to hear or talk about it anymore. What then? Many of us know what it’s like to still need to talk beyond the limits of what others think is normal or necessary.

Write. Create. Run.

There is more than one way to help release the pain. Talking is one, but doing is another.

I found that by writing my story out in journal form was just the right dose of catharsis I needed. It’s helped me find peace. Then it grew into something altogether new. A novel.

Although I wrote the story from a totally fictional standpoint, bringing my character to life and through the same sort of trauma – and healing – was healing for me, in that I had to be honest with myself as to what healing really was. Looked like, from the inside. In writing this fictionalized version of a truth that so many of us live through, it also gave me just the right outlet to vent and talk as much as I need/want to. It doesn’t matter that my personal truth never make its way into the novel. It was the simple act of writing that helped.

And what’s more, I get to use my novel as a tool to help others heal! Talk about empowerment.

Just keep in mind, through the nature of our own creativity, you can find ways to help vent frustrations and emotion.

Writing. Cooking. Painting. Running.

There are more than a few ways that can help empower us that heal us too.

Healing. It’s not easy. It’s not clean. But if you find it helpful to be in control of who you tell, how you tell and when you tell your story, do it any way you feel fit.

It will totally release you.

If you’re about to talk about your trauma with someone who you’re not sure will believe you – or you’ve just talked to someone who didn’t believe you – check this out. It’s a list of what NOT to say to a survivor, along with an extended list of what TO say what will help us all heal.

And good luck. I believe you.

This post was originally published for The Survivor Manual on April 4, 2014.

Lia-Mack-400-400Lia Mack is the author of Waiting for Paint to Dry (Pen L, May 2015), one woman’s quest to reclaim inner peace, take back her life, and stumble into love… Mack has also seen her creative non-fiction writing in various publications such as The Washington Post, Nickelodeon Jr. Magazine, Advances in Bereavement Magazine and Nesting Magazine.

You can visit her online at www.LiaMack.com.

Removing Toxic People From Your Life…

removing toxic people from your life

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There’s a lot of information out there about toxins and their lasting negative effects on our physical health. We all know about the detrimental effects of artificial preservatives, additives, pesticides, and the like. But what about the negative effect toxic people have on our heath?

Can encounters with toxic people effect our physical, mental, and emotional health? If so, how do we protect ourselves from further harm? Then again, we survivors always struggle with putting our own needs first…Is it selfish to remove toxic people from our life?

Before you answer that hard question, ask yourself one more: Could removing such people turn out to be life saving?

Emotionally toxic people can ravage us from the inside out. Yet, what exactly defines a toxic person depends on who you talk to. In my life, I’ve found toxic people are those who:

  • take and never give in return
  • constantly complain
  • gossips
  • puts others down
  • makes others feel guilty
  • can only criticize

What all toxic people have in common is that they always leave us powerless, vulnerable, and depleted. And for us, feeling this way for long periods of time is devastating to our physical and emotional health. All in all, toxic people don’t help us, they harm us.

Just as with toxins in our food and environment, to keep ourselves safe, toxic people need to be avoided whenever possible.

On my blog, I’ve shared what works for me to keep myself, my sanity, safe whenever I’m in the presence of a toxic person. Since then, I’ve shared it countless times and helped others remove toxins from their lives too. So, below, I’ve shared them again, with you.

Be forewarned, though. Some of these tips are going to be hard to swallow at first. But try them out for yourself anyway. See what works for you. So far, following these guidelines has helped me not only be toxic people free, but also stress free. What a life saver…

Walk Away

Say, for instance, you are in a room full of people, and someone starts gossiping, ranting about this or that, complaining about anything and everything, and you know – you know – that no matter what you say, however eloquent, you will never change this person’s mind…just walk away.You do not have to be there to hear all of their negativity. Your presence is not necessary. They will rant and complain to anyone! Who says it has to be you anymore?Leave with your sanity intact! Save yourself!

Here’s what you do: Stand up, totally calm, grab your children so they can escape too, and nonchalantly leave the room. Come back only when you know enough time has passed that everyone else in the room has argued ’till they’re blue in the face with the toxic person, to no avail, and the topic has been changed.

Phew! You saved yourself from a toxic encounter!

Take Yourself Out of the Equation

How about this…There was a huge misunderstanding between you and someone and, had it happened between you and a person capable of having a normal conversation, it would’ve been resolved in a calm, adult conversation.Except this is a toxic person. They do not know how to have a conversation. They only know how to yell, scream, belittle. Nothing is normal about them. Instead of coming to you with the problem, they’ve been gossiping to everyone how you did this and you did that, bad mouthing you to everyone and anyone who will listen. It doesn’t matter if what they say is false or true, take yourself out of the equation.Don’t play their game. Don’t stoop to their level. Don’t counter act all their assaults. Remove yourself. If need be, say your bit to the toxic person – just the facts – totally calm and firm, and then let it go. You did your part. You’ve cleaned yourself of the misunderstanding. Now, let it go.

Chances are everyone else is just as fed up with this person as you are. Eventually, everyone will see that it’s just another one of this toxic person’s tirades and will start see your wise ways of getting out of the way. They too will remove themselves from this person’s path, seeing how calm and relaxed you are by no longer being involved with this toxic person.

If they don’t, it’s not your problem. Take care of yourself.

Take Responsibility

For your health! It’s your health. If you don’t take care of yourself, who will? No one.Are you going to continue to let this person shape your life for the worse? Allow yourself to feel the effects of their negativity so much that it is effecting your health? They take and never give.Who is to blame that this person is still in your life? Them? Nope, sorry folks. It’s no one’s fault but your own.  They are always going to do what they do. But what they do to you is up to you. No one else.

If you don’t want to be treated poorly, don’t allow it. Do what you have to do to take control of your life. If that means no longer engaging someone in a conversation because you know it’s going to turn sour, then don’t!

If you know that just by being around a certain toxic person brings you down and causes you to feel horrible for days, weeks later, then limit or restrict your contact with that person.

You are in charge of your life, of you. Don’t let others bring you down. You have to take care of your health so that you can take care of all the other things and people in your life you are responsible for.

I know this is the hardest one to swallow, but it’s true. Just think about it. You are in charge of you. You need to take care of you. You. You. You!

So, there you have it. My own ways of dealing with the toxins in my life. What works for you may be different, as there are many ways in which you can save your sanity and your health.

If you have any of your own ideas and tips, please share! We can all use additional tools in our arsenal against our toxic common enemies…

That said, here’s to taking great care of ourselves and removing toxins from our life!



Lia-Mack-400-400Lia Mack is the author of Waiting for Paint to Dry (Pen L, May 2015), one woman’s quest to reclaim inner peace, take back her life, and stumble into love… Mack has also seen her creative non-fiction writing in various publications such as The Washington Post, Nickelodeon Jr. Magazine, Advances in Bereavement Magazine and Nesting Magazine.

You can visit her online at www.LiaMack.com.

Review of “Crash Into Me: A Survivor’s Search for Justice”

Liz Seccuro spent years building her world anew after it had been destroyed by rape when she was seventeen. The strong foundation of her carefully structured life was weakened when the rapist, William Beebe, dared to contact her twenty-two years after the assault. Ms. Seccuro wrote Crash Into Me as a concise narrative that documents the complex true story of surviving after rape, and seeking the justice victims deserve.

Ms. Seccuro conveys how she feels as she engages the rapist in email correspondence. The exchanges prompt her to take on the seemingly insurmountable task of pressing charges against the man who had assaulted her when they were at the University of Virginia in 1984.

The reader sees the wide net of protection that is cast upon institutions that value the status-quo. It is disturbing to hear how society defends the perpetrator while blaming the victim. It is maddening to read that: “in a rape case, it is never, ever the alleged rapist on trial, whether in the courtroom or in the media. The victim is on trial. Always.” (p. 114) No wonder victims do not dare report!

Ms. Seccuro candidly reveals the details of her experience, and the story yields even more brutality and betrayal. She balances her emotional content with the inclusion of court documents (which left me shaking my head in disbelief at the absurdity of the questions posed by the defendant’s attorney to the witness, the victim herself). She deepens the readers empathy with every impossible decision she must make. How hard do rape victims have to work to empower themselves as individuals and in society?

Seccuro’s singular book speaks volumes about the priggish institutional systems and the precision in which they cooperate to cover-up crime. How can a medical facility turn away a rape victim? (This was the case for seventeen year old Liz). Crash Into Me is a fast-paced, riveting read, written with clarity and courage. Bravo to Liz Seccuro!

Review completed by Lynn C. Tolson, advocate and author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor’s Story