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6 tips for talking to rape survivors

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.

  • Believe them

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

    You can say to them;

    • ‘I believe you’
    • ‘I totally understand what you’re saying’
    • ‘I am so sorry this happened to you’
  • 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.

    You can say to them:

    • ‘You are not alone’
    • ‘I am here to help you any way I can’
    • ‘I care about you’
    • ‘I am here for you’
    • ‘Call me anytime’ 
    • ‘It is very brave of you to talk about this’
  • 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.

    You can say to them:

    • ‘I am here to listen anytime you need me’,
    • ‘I am here to help you’,
    • ‘Do not be afraid to ask for help anytime’,
    • ‘I am so sorry this happened’, 
    • ‘This must be really tough for you’
    • I have no idea what to say, but I am here to help any way I can’
  • Assure them it’s not their fault

    Survivors may blame themselves for what happened, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.

    You can say to them:

    • ‘This is not your fault’
    • ‘You did not deserve this’
    • ‘You didn’t do anything to deserve this’
    • ‘You are not to blame’
    • ‘You did not do anything wrong’
  • Help them preserve evidence

    They do not have to decide right away if they want to talk to the police or press charges against the person who assaulted them, but just in case they do, it is important for them to take precautions to preserve any evidence that may have been left behind after the assault.

    You can say to them: 

    • ‘I know all you want to take a bathe, but maybe you should wait until we see a doctor. There might be evidence that could be used later if you decide to report’ 
    • ‘I know you’re not sure if you want to report, and that’s alright. Please consider not showering and bringing the clothes you were wearing with you when we see a doctor. This could help preserve evidence if you decide to report later.’
  • Encourage them to report

    Rape is a crime, and victims have the right to report what happened to them to the police. Do not force them though, instead, encourage them to report. If they decide to report, you can go with them for moral support. 

    You can say to them:

    • ‘What happened to you is a crime, and you can report this to the police if you want to’
    • ‘If you decided to report what happened to you to the police, I will be here with you every step of the way’
    • ‘Would you want to report this to the police. Would you like to talk about how you feel about this?’
    • ‘How do you feel about reporting what happened to you to the police?’

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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