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Talking to sexual violence survivors: do's and don'ts

If someone you know and love is a survivor of sexual violence, it can be really difficult to find the right words when you are trying to comfort and support them.

 If you are unsure of what you should and shouldn't say, have a look at our do's and don'ts.

Do's
Believe them

The most important thing you can do for a survivor is to believe them. Never question their story.

Put them at ease

Let them know that you are there for them and that they can count on you. Support is one of the most important things. Letting a survivor know that they have yours will be a relief for them.

Be supportive

This can mean that you listen to them and lend them your shoulder to cry on, but it can also mean that you enjoy a fun day out together, not talking about what happened. Or to just sit together in silence.

Be there for them, whatever they may need.

Don'ts
Don't justify

It takes a lot of courage to share a painful experience with someone, especially when it comes to sex, sexuality, and sexual violence.
Particularly when it comes to violence in marriages, people often think there are blurred lines and try to justify harassment. But that's not okay. As long as someone experiences something that is against their will, they were violated.

Don't make excuses for the perpetrator

Don't ask how much the survivor had to drink or what they were wearing when they were raped or otherwise sexually violated. Because it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that they were forced into a sexual act without their consent.

Don't let them minimize their experience

Some survivors try to cope with their experience by minimizing what happened to them. That can be dangerous and you should let them know that it's okay to be voicing their pain and the injustice done to them.

Don't share their story

Don't abuse their trust and share their story without having their permission. It's normal that you may need to talk about your feelings as well but you need to be very discreet and never share anything that could identify the survivor against their will.

Don't tell them what to do

Of course you can give advice, or share your opinion, but never push the survivor towards anything they don't want or are not ready for.

Do you have questions about this, or are you a survivor of sexual violence and need to talk to someone? Our forum moderators are always here for you.

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