Trigger warning: sexual assault, rape.
When someone tells you that they have been sexually assaulted, harassed, molested, raped, or anything of the sort, the proper response is to say, “I’m so sorry. It wasn’t your fault. What happened to you was reprehensible, and no one should be forced to go through that. What can I do to be there for you? Do you want to report it to the police? I will be with you every step of the way, no matter what you do. You’re not alone.”
If you have any doubts about whether or not they are telling the truth, the proper response is still the same as the above. Do not voice your lack of concern. Do not voice or otherwise show your incredulity. Be nothing short of supportive.
Because it takes a lot for assault victims to speak out about what happened to them. It hurts. It’s terrifying. They’re plagued with doubt, fear, shame, guilt, indescribable pain and confusion. It’s a part of themselves that is so difficult to bear, let alone share.
Because so many people have made it clear that it should remain a secret pain. That no wrong was done. That it may have been their fault. Or maybe it didn’t even happen, or at least wasn’t that bad.
They don’t need your apathy. They don’t need you to question their version of the events (if they go to court, it’ll happen there in spades). They need your support. That’s why they came to you in the first place.
Also, if a minor is in any way involved — whether a minor is the one confiding in you, or there are minors at risk — go to the police immediately, whether you are a mandatory reporter or not. And incidentally, in many states every adult is a mandatory reporter (Maryland being one of them).
Christians in particular, I beg of you to help the abused who may trust you and come to you. Weep with them. Help them bear their burden. Become a safe place for them. Be Jesus to them.