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How to Help a Survivor of Sexual Violence

Below is information on how to help a survivor of sexual violence.

If an assault took place at any time, always remember to:

  • Listen without judgment.  It takes incredible strength and courage to share so be respectful.  
  • Believe.  It is important to Start by Believing, verbalize your belief to the survivor, expressing empathy and sincerely sharing your concern.
  • Be patient and sensitive.  Understand the range of emotions and the time it takes to heal is different for every survivor.  Allow an individual to make decisions about when and how to receive support, help them to understand it is not their fault.  
  • Empower the survivor.  There are many resources available to survivors of sexual assault on and off campus, know the resources and share them all openly.  

Helpful things to say:

  • Thank you for telling me.
  • I believe you.
  • It's not your fault.
  • I'm sorry that happened to you.
  • What can I do to help?
  • You are a strong person.
  • I'm glad you told me.

Comments to watch out for:

  • Avoid interrogating or asking for specific details.
  • Avoid "why" questions such as "why did you go there?" or "why didn't you scream?"
  • Avoid telling what you would have done or what they should have done.

The healing process for a survivor will take time and is different for everyone.  As a person who cares about the survivor you could possibly experience emotional stress as well.  Be sure to take care of yourself and empower the survivor to do the same. 

Emotional Self-Care:

  • Seek counseling - on campus Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides free confidential counseling for students.  Appointments can be made by visiting Martin Hall 225
  • Relax - participate in self or group relaxation or meditation
  • Keep a journal - recording your feelings could help to manage your emotions
  • Maintain friendships - nurture supportive/positive relationships and let go of negative ones
  • Eat regularly - maintain a nutritional diet
  • Get plenty of sleep-  lack of sleep can affect your ability to meet responsibilities
  • Exercise is known to combat feelings of sadness and depression
  • Seek medical care - do not put off reviewing any physical or emotional symptoms with a doctor
  • Maintain a regular routine

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