It’s hard to know what to do or say when someone we care about has been hurt. If someone discloses to you that they’ve experienced sexual violence, your response can be a critical piece of how they heal from what happened. If you are supportive, it can help them move forward knowing that someone is on their team and has their back. If you come across as dismissive, judgmental, or unbelieving, this can stop a survivor in their tracks. In fact, we often hear from survivors that in the aftermath, their interactions with loved ones, bosses, teachers, faith leaders, law enforcement, medical staff, and even counselors can be almost as difficult and traumatizing as the sexual violence itself. Here are a few things you can do that will help the survivor in your life move forward knowing they are supported.
1. Tell them you believe them.
People very rarely lie about being raped or sexually assaulted. It just doesn’t benefit them to do so. If someone trusts you with this information, honor that, believe them, and tell them that you do. If you can’t do so, connect them with someone who can provide them with support, like our support hotline.
2. Tell them it's not their fault.
No matter what a survivor was doing, the responsibility for their assault lies squarely with the person who chose to force or coerce them sexually. No exceptions.
3. Support their decisions.
We get it, stepping back can be hard. You probably have ideas about what the survivor should do next. But their control was already taken away by the perpetrator. You can be most helpful by supporting their decisions rather than telling what they “should” or “ought” to do.
And finally, get support for yourself. We are most supportive to those we love when we have support ourselves. The survivor cannot be responsible for taking care of others, but we provide support to family and friends of survivors free of charge. Call our crisis hotline to set up an appointment.
To talk to a crisis counselor 24/7, call our support line!