Tips for Supporting a Victim Survivor

How to Support a Victim Survivor

It may be hard to know what say when you learn that someone you know has experienced sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking. These suggestions will encourage and benefit the vicitm survivor in a supportive way that can help them feel less isolated and safer.

  • Listen Letting a victim survivor speak and direct the conversation can help them regain a sense of control. Let them decide what they want to talk about and when they want to talk about it.
  • Believe them Our culture often makes it very difficult to talk about sexual violence, and the fear of not being believed is a very real concern for people who have been victimized. Don’t contribute to that fear.
  • Empower them Assure the victim survivor that they are not to blame for the violence, no matter what the circumstances of the assault were. It is also important and empowering for the victim survivor to make their own decisions about reporting.
  • Do not judge how the victim survivor reacted during or after the incident. Understand that they handled the situation the best they could.
  • Be mindful when asking about the incident. You do not want to seem judgmental, condescending or otherwise unsupportive.
  • Be supportive of the victim survivor decisions. Victim survivors have a number of options and resources that may seem overwhelming. Whether or not they report the incident, press charges, attend counseling, etc., is not up to you. But, don’t be entirely uninvolved — they might ask for your opinion or advice, to seek both medical and emotional help can be positive.
  • Be respectful of the the victim survivors privacy. The victim survivor deserves their space and this time to themself.
  • Accept that there might be changes in the victim survivor's personality or in your relationship. Sexual violence is a traumatic experience that can change a person, and the healing process takes time.
  • Be aware that you might need support as well. Take care of yourself and address your feelings.
  • Be careful not to overwhelm the victim survivor with your own emotions. If you seek support from someone, be sure to maintain the victim survivor's anonymity. 

Additional information on relationships and dating violence can be found at loveisrespect.org.