Every survivor responds to sexual violence differently. Positive support from friends and family makes a huge difference in the healing process. It’s important to let survivors make their own choices in coping with sexual violence. Below are some things you can do to support a survivor if they choose to disclose their experience to you.
Believe the survivor | Remember that sexual violence is a crime of power and control. Believing and validating begins to shift power and control back to the survivor. Survivors often fear that no one will believe them.
Listen | If a survivor is telling you their story, let them talk without interruption. Often all a survivor needs is to feel heard, and reminded that they are not alone and that this was not their fault. Give them space to share and express emotions without fear of judgment.
Respect Boundaries | Respect a survivor’s personal boundaries. Survivors may not want to be hugged, touched or physically comforted.
It Was Not Their Fault | Remind them it was not their fault, regardless of what happened. Don’t ask questions that imply blame and avoid “should/could” statements. Questions or statements such as “what were you thinking” or “you shouldn’t have been drinking” imply the survivor is to blame. The only person responsible is the person who committed the violence.
Let Them Decide | Because sexual violence strips away a person's power, survivors need to have control of their decisions. Let them decide what they would like to do. You can offer information for local services, but don’t give advice. Remind them that there is no schedule for healing. They will decide what their recovery and healing looks like.
Ask How You Can Help | Ask how you can support them. If they don’t know, that’s ok. Let them know that you are here for them.
Learning that a loved one suffered sexual violence can also have huge impacts on you. It’s ok to have your own feelings and reactions. Take care of yourself. Our advocates are here to support loved ones too. Call us any day, any time. at 1.800.770.1650 or text 'IOWAHELP' to 20121.