By Madelyn Jones
This week I am continuing on the topic of sexual assault, but I’ll be focusing on suggested ways to handle conversations, whether you are directly involved or trying to avoid them.
It is important to remember that you do not have to get into these conversations. Every reason you can think of, whether it is damaging to your mental health or you simply just don’t want to get into it, is a valid reason to refuse to join a conversation about the topic.
I know I have a problem with diving into parts of the Internet that I know will only be damaging. For example, when I see a anti-feminist tweet that has gotten a lot of attention, I know the replies will be filled with upsetting and possibly damaging responses, but sometimes I look any way.
Lately, when I see something like that, I have been quickly scrolling far past it so it is just too much of a pain to find it again. This is also another way to avoid engaging in upsetting conversations.
There is also no reason to feel guilty for not having these conversations. Even if you have a potentially helpful perspective or feel like you should, it is never your responsibility. Along those same lines, if you are a survivor, you never owe someone your story.
If you do not want to have these conversations you can always tell people to self-educate. That is an important part of standing in solidarity with survivors. People who want to help support survivors should be willing to take the time to do this.
Often, it seems like people who want to support ask the women or survivors they know how they can help because they think it is the best option. I think this usually comes with the best of intentions, and they will understand if they are told that it is best to self-educate.
If you have articles, videos or other resources that you personally like, it can be a good idea to point people with questions to those. This way you know they are getting good information and you do not have to do the explaining.
Here is one piece of advice I have heard people give men that has particularly stuck with me and that I like to explain to men that ask: if you are out, especially at night, but this includes all times, make an effort for women to not feel like you are following them.
Women commonly get stalked and followed, and it is not uncommon for them to be on the lookout for that behavior. Make sure your proximity and behavior does not give them questions about whether you are following them or not.