[TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULT, RAPE CULTURE, TRAUMA]
This piece from Everyday Feminism about the neurobiological effects of trauma on the human brain is so important that I'm labeling it as "essential reading" rather than just recommending it. I want so much for people to understand the following truth:
Recollection of a traumatic event is always - ALWAYS - imperfect.
Actually, recollection of any event is always imperfect unless you are a rare individual who has a photographic memory. The average human memory does not have the capacity to retain a complete and consistent memory of every event. And when an event is traumatic, the brain is going into such intense overdrive that the memory functions much more poorly, and distortions, inconsistencies, and partial memory loss are extremely common in these situations.
In fact, if someone recounts a traumatic event with total consistency and in vivid detail while acting as upset as people expect survivors to act, that's an indication that they're lying. It's easy to rattle off details that you made up and memorized. It's hard to recall the details of a traumatic event. The vast majority of people have it BACKWARDS.
Should We Believe Survivors? A Primer on the Neurobiology of Trauma
The bottom line, though, is that you should immediately support and express belief to any survivor, even if you're secretly suspicious. The risk of re-traumatizing someone - inflicting the concurrent trauma of having someone tell you that your feelings and experiences aren't valid - is too terrible. Please, please believe and support survivors.