When a woman tells you she’s been violated:
No matter what words she uses to describe the violation.
No matter the drinks or the outfit or the degree to which she knew or didn’t know her violator.
No matter the time of day or night or the spaces in memory.
No matter her age now or her age then or how long it took to speak it.
No matter how many times it’s happened or what came before or after.
No matter the questions that arise in your own mind, planted by a culture that has taught you that her-story is the one to be met with disbelief.
Hear her story.
Blanket her shame with your love.
Counter her fear with your faith.
Hold the relentless questions running on loops in her mind between your palms, tenderly.
When she says, “It was my fault…”
Tell her no.
When she asks, “Was this okay…?”
Say not now. Not ever.
When she wonders, “Did I bring this on myself…?”
Remind her that she has only ever called in goodness.
When she worries you’ll never look at her the same way…
Do not hesitate or waver. Tell her that she is wrong. That she is beautiful. That you love her.
When she tells you they didn’t believe her before…
Remind her that you are different.
When she cannot look you in the eye…
Hold up the brightest mirror you can find, and show her the vast and unchangeable beauty of her being.
When she shows you her bruises…
Swallow hard and don’t you dare look away.
When she cries…
When she reaches out in need of kind arms…
When she cannot find her voice to safely speak. When the words stick like swords in her throat. When the sound of her own voice is too much to bear…
Will your love to transmit across miles of silence.
Hold the space without sound.
Fill it with wildflowers and sunshine and infinite softness.
When she needs to tell her story again and again and again…
Listen. As many times as it takes.
When it takes far longer than you expected for her to heal…
Be infinitely patient.
When that healing looks nothing like they told you it would…
Find every dictionary in your house. Cross out the definition they gave you. Allow her to write in her own.
Make sure to use pencil so she can change it as often as she needs.
When her body feels unsafe on the street or in the coffee shop or at the grocery store…
Walk closely beside her, ask if she would like to hold your hand. Shield her energy with you own. Don’t let go.
When she’s afraid of the dark…
Keep the lights on.
When she’s too terrified to sleep alone…
Plan to stay as many nights as she needs.
When her body feels unsafe in your bed…
Stop. Look her in the eyes. Remind her that in this space, always, she is sovereign.
When she asks you to make love to her…
Trust her. Go slow. Be prepared to stop.
When you’re not sure how to proceed…
When she answers…
Pay close attention.
When the rules change…
When you can’t touch her the same way. When what was beautiful between you is now a reminder of horror. When triggers arise in unexpected and tender spaces…
Don’t you dare take it personally.
When her body, her home, and the world transform into fields littered with land mines…
Walk carefully and gently and with great reverence.
When you trip over one of them—and you will…
Go easy on yourself. You too will need infinite kindness to get through this.
When the weight of what is required begins to feel so very heavy. When you fear your bones might crack. When your own heart is tangled and your soul is weary and longing for rest and a place to lay it all down….
Reserve tenderness for yourself.
Make a religion out of the most exquisite self-care. Remember that you, too, deserve respite, comfort, and safe arms to hold you as you cry.
When she wakes up at night, sits straight up in bed, a silent scream caught in her throat, her body echoing memory knit into bones…
Sit up with her. Light a candle and shine it in all the dark corners. Breathe with her until her breath returns to her body and her heart stops trying to escape from her rib cage
When she can’t sleep…
Invite her to nestle her head against your chest.
Play with her hair. Sing her lullabies. Whisper truths in her ear.
Truths about her beauty.
And her power.
And her absolute right to autonomy of spirit and soul and body.
Her ownership of her scared yes and her holy no.
Her warrior strength and her ability to survive.
Now and for the rest of her life.
When a woman tells you she was violated….
And say so.
Don’t just think it.
Don’t just feel it.
Speak the words to her.
Out loud. Right now.
As many times as it takes.
Over and over and over again.
With your body.
In the way you look at her.
In public. On social media.
At the hospital.
At the police station.
At the bar.
On the street corner.
In your outside voice where other people can hear.
In as many different languages as you can memorize.
Because too many women in this world have been violated.
And too many are met with the violence of disbelief.
So, when a woman tells you she was violated.
You stop what you’re doing.
Look her in the eyes.
And tell her you believe her.
Author: Jeanette LeBlanc
Image: Third Chamber/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina