If a survivor of sexual abuse or sexual assault turns to you for help, it’s important to understand how to react. The first and most important step you can take is to believe the person. Avoid saying anything that might imply they misunderstood the situation or that they are somehow responsible. Simply listen to the person and make sure that they know you understand what that person is saying and believe them. Thanking them for trusting in you can be helpful too.
If the person is in emotional/mental crisis or needs medical attention, encourage them to seek help. However, it’s important that they make these decisions for themselves (the exception may be if the injuries or mental crisis are life-threatening).
Realize too that the survivor may not be ready to open up to you fully. Pushing for more information or trying to “draw more of the story out” is not helpful for the survivor. Remember, you are there for that person, not vice versa. Sometimes you just being there and listening are important steps in their healing.
How to Help Survivors
Information about helping and dealing with sexual abuse situations can be accessed below.