It’s not always easy to know exactly the right thing to say when someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted. Chances are you know someone who is a survivor of sexual violence, but they may not have told anyone for fear of being judged or blamed. If someone discloses to you, it’s important to know the right way to respond. Here are some tips on what to do if you find yourself in this situation.
- Believe them. Many survivors keep silent because they worry that they won’t be believed. Start by letting the survivor know that you believe them and that you are there for them. Leave the investigating to the experts! Your job is to be supportive.
- Avoid “why” questions. “Why” questions indicate judgment. Asking questions like “Why were you out alone?” or “Why didn’t you scream?” make it seem like you think the survivor did something wrong, or that the violence was their fault.
- Tell them that it’s not their fault. Even if you avoid asking those “why” questions, the survivor might still blame themselves. Remember that no one deserves to be assaulted and that it is never the survivor’s fault.
- Remind them that you care. Some survivors worry that others may see them differently after finding out about the violence they experienced. Let them know that nothing has changed between you and that you still care about them.
- Ask how you can help. Instead of taking charge, ask the survivor what you can do to best support them. Let the survivor make their own decisions.
- Know your resources. There’s only so much one individual can do, so it’s helpful to be aware of resources you can recommend to the survivor, such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline (call at 800.656.HOPE or chat online at online.rainn.org y en español a rainn.org/es).
Education is the best prevention. At the Katie Brown Educational Program, we teach the importance of consent, respect, and equality in order to combat relationship and sexual violence. Interested in learning more? Book our Sexual Violence 101 workshop, or consider donating here to help support us in our mission of violence prevention education.