How can I support a sexual violence survivor?
It’s not always easy to know what to say when someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, especially if they are a friend or family member. For a survivor, disclosing to someone they care about can be very difficult, so we encourage you to be as supportive and non-judgemental as possible.
You could let them know that you believe them and that there are support services like RSACC that are there for them if they’d like to access them. If they use our online chat or Emotional Support Line, they don’t have to provide their name or specific details, we will support them at their pace. But often listening is the best way to support a survivor.
Here are some phrases which could be helpful:
“I believe you. It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.”
It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed. Leave any “why” questions or investigations to the experts—your job is to support this person. No matter how they are acting, the best thing you can do is to believe them.
“It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.
“You are not alone. I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.”
Let the survivor know that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story if they are comfortable sharing it. Find out if there are people in their life they feel comfortable going to, and remind them that there are expert and friendly support services like RSACC who will be able to support them as they heal from the experience.
“I’m sorry this happened. This shouldn’t have happened to you.”
Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life. Phrases like “This must be really tough for you,” and, “I’m so glad you are sharing this with me,” help to communicate empathy.