What You Can Do to Help Survivors of Sexual Violence


Whereas we as a tradition work to confront the disaster of sexual violence, we’ve got witnessed waves of survivor disclosures through actions like #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #NotOkay. For the well being, security, and emotional wellbeing of survivors of sexual violence, it’s critically essential that assist suppliers — together with family and friends members — be ready to offer constructive, useful reactions to survivors who come ahead.

This text goals to stipulate the distinction between constructive and unfavourable reactions to sexual violence as recognized within the fields of medical psychology and criminology. Our hope is that this piece will higher put together readers to offer loving, compassionate assist to the survivors of their lives who select to reveal, and to contribute to a safer tradition for survivors no matter their disclosure determination.

Optimistic and Detrimental Reactions

Social reactions to disclosures of violence have a major impression on well being outcomes for survivors, and are generally characterised in psychology analysis as being both constructive or unfavourable [1].

Optimistic reactions to disclosures embody:

Offering emotional assist (listening, telling the survivor they’re courageous or robust).
Offering tangible or informational assist (providing to attach the survivor to sources).
Offering validation or perception.
Offering non-blame (telling the sufferer it was not their fault).

Whereas unfavourable reactions to disclosure embody:

Blaming the sufferer.
Treating the sufferer otherwise (as if they’re broken or incapable of taking good care of themselves).
Making an attempt to regulate the sufferer (forcing them to reveal or to report back to regulation enforcement).
Selfish responses (for example, responding so angrily that the sufferer is pressured to consolation the disclosure recipient slightly than receiving consolation themselves).

Whereas survivors who obtain constructive reactions to disclosures are likely to have higher well being outcomes and usually tend to formally report their expertise, survivors who obtain unfavourable reactions to their disclosure might expertise heightened PTSD, nervousness, melancholy, self-blame, avoidance coping, emotions of disgrace, emotions of guilt, and unfavourable have an effect on [2-5]. It’s due to this fact essential that people learn the way greatest to reply to survivors who disclose experiences of violence.

For a complete record of what to do, what to not do, what to say, what to not say, and sources for self-care following receipt of a disclosure, please see the “supporting survivors” part under.

Supporting Survivors

Word: this part has been tailored from a manuscript written by the writer and revealed within the Journal of Sexual Aggression [6].

As mentioned above, responding supportively to a survivor who discloses or shares an expertise of sexual violence might facilitate survivor therapeutic, empower survivors to report, or assist survivors really feel comfy transferring ahead with disciplinary or authorized procedures in opposition to their perpetrator.

However, offering a unfavourable or unsupportive response might enhance survivor self-blame, result in poor outcomes for the survivor, or dissuade the survivor from sharing their expertise with different assist suppliers and sources.

It’s vital that all of us be ready to reply appropriately to disclosures of sexual violence.

Recommendation and steerage on the way to present assist for a survivor who discloses a sexually violent expertise, in addition to info on which reactions to keep away from, are included under. Some primary scripts on what to say and what to not say to survivors, in addition to info relating to self-care sources, are additionally included. Please overview these rigorously, and print a replica to maintain in your house, your car, your pockets, or your home of employment.

If You Obtain a Disclosure of Sexual Violence, Do…

Hear with out judgment or interruptions. Enable the survivor to talk till they’re completed.
Thank the survivor for trusting you with their story and guarantee them that you’re right here for them.
Present emotional assist to the survivor (i.e., provide to carry their hand, remind them that they’re liked and valued).
Specific non-blame (i.e., guarantee the survivor that this expertise was not their fault)
Present validation and perception (i.e., display that you simply consider their expertise occurred the way in which they’ve offered it, and guarantee them that you don’t doubt their story).
Present tangible assist (i.e., provide to assist the survivor discover a psychological well being counselor; facilitate the reporting course of with; discover a place to remain if they’re at present residing in shut proximity to their perpetrator; assist the survivor entry sources corresponding to an area rape disaster middle, assist group, or therapist).

If this can be a campus assault, and you might be thought of a Mandated Reporter by the College, do inform the survivor that you’re required to report their expertise, and ask them how they wish to transfer ahead.

Re-asserting survivors’ emotions of company, independence, and selection is essential throughout the reporting course of.

Guarantee them that they are going to be a full companion within the reporting course of, and that you’ll not transfer ahead with a reporting step till you might be each on the identical web page. Guarantee them that you’ll verify in frequently, and you can take a break at any indicators of emotional misery. Remind the survivor that, although it’s your job to report the expertise to the suitable campus management, it’s also your job to make sure that the survivor feels heard, supported, and in command of their therapeutic course of.

Do Not…

Blame the survivor or suggest that the survivor was in any approach chargeable for their expertise
Ask the survivor pointless questions or for extra particulars than they’ve given you. If the survivor chooses to speak in confidence to a proper useful resource just like the police, the survivor will possible be required to recount their expertise many occasions, which could be retraumatizing and nerve-racking. Don’t make them accomplish that greater than is totally needed for the sake of reporting procedures.
Deal with the survivor otherwise (as if they’re broken or damaged) or act as if they’re unable to care for themselves.
Reply in an overly-emotional, offended, or upset approach — the survivor is already dealing with their very own harm and trauma and shouldn’t be required to consolation one other particular person whereas they course of their expertise, disclose, and heal.
Assume the survivor shall be visibly harm, upset, or reacting to their expertise. It’s doable that the survivor will seem like unemotional, show a flat have an effect on, or be calm throughout their disclosure. This doesn’t low cost the severity of their expertise.
Distract the survivor or try and get them to speak about one thing else — this will ship the message that you don’t want to hearken to their story, should not taking their ache significantly, or don’t care about their expertise.
Advise the survivor to not speak about their expertise — this may have a silencing impact, and will cut back the survivor’s consolation in formally reporting.
Attempt to take management of their decision-making course of. The survivor is free to make their very own decisions relating to whether or not to inform household or associates, confront the perpetrator, search extra counseling or assist, or formally press costs.

Do Say…

“Thanks for sharing your story with me. I’m honored that you’d belief me with this, and I’m grateful for the chance to assist you.”
“I consider you. I consider that your expertise occurred as you say it did.”
“I assist you and no matter choices you make in your personal therapeutic.”
“Would you want a hug? Would you want me to carry your hand?” (Ask for permission earlier than making bodily contact with the survivor, however do present them the useful resource of affection if they want it.)
“This was not your fault, and you probably did nothing to deserve what occurred to you.”
“What do you want from me? What can I do to greatest assist you proper now?”
“Are you interested by studying about sources that may enable you via this course of?”
“Are you interested by reporting to police or regulation enforcement?”
If you’re a mandated reporter: “As a result of I’m a mandated reporter, I’m required to report this to the suitable authorities. Nonetheless, that is your story and your expertise. How would you want to maneuver ahead? What can I do that will help you really feel secure and cozy discussing your expertise? Are there another members of the campus group that you simply wish to be concerned in your reporting course of?”
“Through the reporting course of and our conversations about your expertise, we are able to take breaks everytime you need.”

Keep away from Saying…

“I don’t consider issues occurred that approach.”
“What had been you carrying?”
“Have been you ingesting earlier than this occurred?”
“Did you may have a sexual historical past with this particular person?”
“Why didn’t you simply go away? Why didn’t you combat again?”
“It’s important to report this instantly.”
“It’s important to press costs.”
“I’m so livid at [perpetrator]”
“I’m so devastated — that is terrible.”
“Let’s speak about one thing else, it looks like that is upsetting you.”


It’s regular to really feel confused, unhappy, anxious, apprehensive, confused, or harm after receiving a disclosure.

Your emotions as a assist supplier and disclosure respondent are legitimate, and your personal emotional well being issues.

Self-care is a crucial a part of the disclosure and response course of — it’s unimaginable to “pour from an empty glass.” So as to greatest assist different folks, you have to additionally just be sure you really feel secure, completely satisfied, wholesome, and cared for. Listed below are some expertise and actions which can be advisable for self-care:

Meditate (digital apps corresponding to Calm and Headspace provide free meditation steerage, and plenty of meditation sources could be discovered on YouTube).
Do some yoga or stretching (Yoga with Adriene is a free on-line useful resource, obtainable on YouTube, and provides particular movies on dealing with PTSD, stress, and nervousness).
Backyard or spend time in nature.
Journal — writing about your expertise might help you to make sense of your emotions.
Hunt down a counselor or therapist to assist you and enable you course of your emotional reactions.
Spend time with associates and family members.
Breathe mindfully for three–5 minutes at a time, to appease your nervous system and hook up with your physique in a wholesome, current approach.
Throughout moments of heightened misery, do a 5-senses check-in. Ask your self what you might be: seeing, listening to, feeling, tasting, smelling.
Prepare dinner, bake, or eat a meal.
Unplug from units.
Ensure you are getting sufficient sleep.

A Word to Survivors

To you, who transfer via the hurt of this world and are nonetheless standing. You, who’ve the resilience and compassion to create radical change in our society. You, whose presence in my world I have a good time. You, who deserve so a lot better than this world has given you.

First, I wish to say: I consider you, I assist you, your voice issues, your story issues.

It’s as much as you to determine whether or not you need to disclose or report, it’s as much as you to determine the way you need to course of your trauma.

As a survivor myself, I understand how essential it was for me to have possession over my therapeutic course of; how vital it was to really feel assured that I used to be again within the driver seat. Creating company within the aftermath of my expertise was miraculously therapeutic.

The self-care sources and expertise listed above are for you, too. Use them. Work out what self-care works greatest for you. Radical self-love is a game-changer.

I’m honored by your presence in my world. The power that you simply achieve in transferring via your expertise would be the power that heals your group, that modifications our society, that results in a greater future for all of us. Although this burden shouldn’t be ours to bear, we make this world a sweeter, softer place after we work in kinship and group with one another. There is no such thing as a safer area than the love between survivors who validate each other.

Survivors are a boon to our communities. To future victims, we shall be your calm after the storm. There aren’t any phrases robust sufficient to carry my love for you — the way in which your presence in my universe honors and validates me — the glory it’s to construct group with you. We’re going to change this world. We’re the soldiers of equality and accountability. We’re the harbingers of affection, mild, and alter.

Our voices, our experiences, and our resilience are revolutionary. We’re a mighty tide, and we are going to carry our communities towards justice.

Learn Additionally

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