6 Ways to Move Forward After a Friend Does Not Believe You
Sharing your story is complicated, convoluted and can be as traumatizing as the actual trauma. It can also be healing, provide you with a great support system, and alleviate the feeling of being alone. However, what happens if you share your story and the people you love do not believe you? Sadly, this is all too common. However, if you share your story and are not believed, that is not your friend. That is not someone who cares about you and that is not someone that should be part of your life.
Here are 6 ways to cope with losing a friend because they do not believe you:
1. Know that your story is the only one that matters
Sadly, sexual assault stirs up many diverse emotions. People do not react the way that you would hope. Not believing the victim is easier than comprehending that something terrible had happened. It can also be difficult if they also know your perpetrator, it might be hard for them to understand that he/she could do something terrible. However, 80% of sexual assaults are done by someone the victim knows. Even in situations that are “questionable” no one can tell you that what happened to you was anything different than the way you understand it. Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact. If you changed your mind, were too drunk to consent, or were just minding your own business, how the act made YOU feel is important. If there was no consent or consent was retracted, that is sexual assault. Period. End. Of. Story. How you feel is the only thing in the world that matters.
2. Unfollow them
I cannot stress enough on how therapeutic this is. You do not need to see their stories, posts for their college friend’s birthday, or, God forbid, them hanging out with your rapist on the weekends. You don’t need to see their name, be triggered by their face and be reminded that they exist. They showed you exactly who they are and that is not someone who is beneficial to your life or brings anything positive to the table. They are hindering your growth and healing process. Not seeing them on social media and knowing that they cannot keep track of what or how you are doing is freeing. You are free from their continued judgment and being spontaneously reminded of their negativity.
3. Block their phone numbers
I kept worrying that they were going to think of something else awful to say and text me while I was at work. Or message me when I was with my boyfriend and ruin our date night. The worry was causing me to toss and turn all night and keeping me on the brink of tears for days. I spent a significant amount of time wondering if they were ever going to realize how ugly they were and reach out. But the truth was, I didn’t care if they had anything else to say and it was never good for me to dwell on that. But when I blocked their numbers, I realized that they could no longer use their words to hurt me. And if they ever wanted to apologize, it was not something that I was interested in hearing. Blocking their numbers saved me from hours of stress and anxiety.
4. Find somebody who believes you and that you can trust
The first person I really leaned on was my therapist. I knew I needed help processing what happened and how to move forward and everything that I was feeling in between. She helped me get to a point of understanding and grace for myself. Which in turn, got me to a place where I could lean on my best friends. One, in particular, was an instrumental backbone for me. And when I finally told another friend and they didn’t believe me, he was my rock. He held my hand through losing a friend because of this awful experience. Not being believed for what had happened to me was honestly worse than the sexual assault itself. Having that support system whether it is a friend, relative, or a therapist is imperative for healing.
5. Physical exercise
I personally love to work out. It releases a lot of my stress, tension, and helps me keep my anxiety under control. In the setting of trauma, increased endorphins have been shown to promote mental healing. Yoga is a great idea because it strengthens the mind-body connection and teaches you how strong your body can be. I personally turned to kickboxing. I was angry as hell and the punching was therapeutic in more ways than one. This is also a way for you to take control of your body, which in sexual assault situations the control was taken away from you. I also recommend being active outside in the sun. A hike out in nature, taking your dog for an extra-long walk, or even just a lap around the office parking lot all provide a way to center yourself.
6. Take good care of your mental health
All of the recommendations stated above, helped me improve my mental health during this soul-shattering time. But you need to really check in with yourself. YOU are important. How you are feeling is valid. What you are going through is terrible. And losing friends and not being believed adds an entirely unnecessary layer of sadness, pain, and struggle. Check-in with yourself frequently so you can be sure you’re giving yourself what you need. If you need a day to cry in bed and mourn that friendship, then take it. If you want to scream at the top of your lungs while you drive down the highway, go right ahead. (high key recommend that one) If you can’t go to a friend’s birthday party because you know they will be there, then don’t go. It’s not worth jeopardizing your mental health because of the scumbag who did not believe you.
Always remember that good people still exist. You can find a support system. You will find someone who believes you. And one day, you will be healed. Maybe into a different version than you were before because trauma changes people. These steps can help you control the change your trauma is catalyzing in a positive direction.