It is easier to accept that the President Elect in the United States of America is someone who was recorded talking about grabbing women, where they shouldn’t be grabbed, without clear uncoerced consent, if you have never been grabbed that way. It is easier to listen to reports of defeated First Gentleman William J. Clinton’s sexual assaults of women and his devoted wife’s efforts to keep his victims quiet, if you have never been a sexual assault victim.
For millions of women across the world, such reporting has triggered post traumatic sex abuse survivor symptoms. Millions of men are offering their compassionate support.
If you are a man who loves someone who is a sexual assault survivor you might feel helpless and not know what to do or say in response to their upset.
Here are some suggestions:
Be present. Relax your muscles. Breathe. Sigh. Listen. Tolerate pauses in your loved one’s expressions. Tolerate them until you are asked a question or until your loved one says they are fine. Then say something.
Say what you have to say quietly, softly, and slowly. Prepare to feel weird doing this, if doing this is new for you.
Be prepared to be asked if you are all right? Respond, “Yes,” and that you are concerned about your loved one’s welfare.
Ask what you can do to help. If you are asked to do something that you don’t want to do, ask what else you can do. It is generally best that you not do something that you resent doing.
Don’t do something that you are not asked to do, unless it is something that has helped before. If it is not helping this time, stop doing it.
Try mirroring your loved one’s body posture. Sit like they are sitting. Put your arms into the position their arms are in. If they ask what you are doing, say that you want them to feel that you are with them. If they tell you to stop doing it, stop doing it.
Avoid telling them how they should think, feel, or what they should do about their upset.
Listen carefully to what they are saying. When they say stuff you think is stupid, try ignoring that. When they say something that sounds like self-compassion to you, nod your head in agreement, move closer, ask them to tell you more about it.
Try eye contact. If eye contact is uncomfortable for you, as it is for many men, try looking at your loved one’s mouth.
If your conversation starts making you horny, calm down. The worst thing you can do is to try and turn this conversation into seduction for sex. Your loving, empathetic, compassionate sexual expression can be one of your best supportive moves, if that is what your lover wants next. If it is, be sure. If this would be the first time you ever had sex with that person, don’t. Don’t, even if they beg. Sex can wait. If you are being supportive, just because you want to have sex, shame on you. You are better than that. And so is the person you are with.
If your loved one asked what has gotten into you, say that you were reading an article on the goodmenroject.com website. They might want to read it, too.
I am not suggesting any lines to use. I have no “do and don’t” list for you, as to the content of what you should and should not say. I could give you one, but I don’t want to. I believe that if you focus on how you say what you say and why you will do so, this will be more important than your choice of words.
Many years ago, I drove my teenage son and some friends to see a movie called, The Crow. I decided to stay and watch the film. The plot was your usual male hero gets so provoked that the audience can be entertained by the slaughter of his foes to follow. The provocation in this case was the rape of a woman. The rape was well acted and filmed, with a good soundtrack, but i noted with growing discomfort that I was not being entertained. I felt provoked. I felt like I had to do something. I sprung to my feet and yelled, “Why have we paid money to be subjected to this garbage?”
The women in the row in front of me spilled her popcorn.
I left the theater and sat on a curb. What is wrong with me? I thought. I waited for mall security to call the police. That didn’t happen. My son left the theater and walked to where I was sitting. I expected to be berated for embarrassing him in front of his friends.
My son said, “Wow, my dad took a stand.” Then he went back to watch the rest of the movie.
On the way home, I explained to my son and his friends that I had acted impulsively and inappropriately in expressing my critique of a portion of the film. They responded that they liked the film. And I noted they had kept their critique of my performance to themselves.
I waited for angry phone calls from parents. I didn’t get any. I waited for an opportunity to write something that might help someone support a loved one with the fallout of living in a rape culture. The goodmenproject.com website gave me that opportunity.
I hope if you have a opportunity to use anything I have written here to address and resolve rape culture, that you take it.
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