Dean of Students
Sexual Offense

How to Help a Survivor

  • A survivor often confides in someone they know and trust before they contact a resource service. As a friend or family member you can provide valuable information about resources and offer emotional support.

    1. Listen non-judgmentally

    Listening sympathetically and without judgment establishes a feeling of trust and safety. Take the assault seriously and give the survivor every consideration you would for anyone facing a serious life trauma.

    Each person will react to an assault, abuse or harassment in his or her own way. You can tell her or him that although the experience was traumatic, recovery and healing are possible; help is available and can make a difference.

    LISTENING is NOT: Interrupting, yelling, injecting your feelings, changing the subject, making light of the situation, etc.

    2. Give Emotional Support

    • Believe the survivor.
    • Affirm that the person did the right thing by coming to you with this information.
    • Let the person know that they need to set the pace.
    • Don’t press for more information than he or she is comfortable giving.
    • Please do not assume that touch will be comforting to a survivors. Ask the survivor before you hug them, hold their hand, etc.
    •  Help them see that no one ever deserves to be assaulted, abused or harassed. Perpetrators, not victims, are responsible for assault, abuse and harassment.
    •  Express that you realize this is a difficult thing to share and you appreciate the courage it takes to make the first step toward recovery.

    Things you can say:

    • “It is not your fault”
    • “I believe you”
    • "No one deserves to be abused (or assaulted)”
    • "Are you afraid?"
    • "I am concerned for your safety"
    • "I realize this is a difficult thing to share and appreciate the courage it takes to talk about it"
    • “How can I help?”

    Things not to say:

    • “How did you get yourself into this?”
    • "I would never let my partner treat me that way"
    • "All you have to do is call the police"
    • "Why were you there in the first place?"

    .Another Note: If you have personal issues that might interfere with your response to this person, it would be better if you expressed your thanks for their trust in you, but let them know that you need to get someone else to help them. Please honor your boundaries while making sure the survivor receives appropriate assistance.

    3. Offer Information and Resources

    A survivor of sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking is faced with many decisions to make in dealing with his or her experience such:

    • Whether to seek medical attention
    • Seek counseling or other emotional support
    • Tell family and/or significant others
    • Apply for a temporary order of protection
    • Make a report to university officials or make a criminal report to law enforcement

    Seeking assistance from any resource must always be the survivors’ choice. There is no one “right” way for a person to respond after they have been assaulted.

    Counseling and Psychological Services