Supporting a survivor & responding to disclosures

Tips for supporting a survivor of sexual violence

When someone you know or care about experiences a form of dating/intimate partner violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and stalking, you may experience a range of feelings, including anxiety about how best to help them. The PATH to Care Center offers tips to support someone with compassion and empathy. The following additional suggestions may help you support someone:

  • Offer support and compassion. Please thank the survivor for coming to you.
  • Please don't tell the survivor what to do. Violence can make a person feel they have lost their agency. It's important not to compound this. There is no "right" way to cope with trauma. 
  • Offer resources and information without pressure or judgment. Please don't press for details. Allow the survivor to share what they want, when they want. Try to avoid "why?" questions, which can be interpreted as blaming or skeptical. 
    • Tip: You can ask the survivor if they would like to speak with a confidential advocate at the PATH to Care Center If they agree, please call the 24/7 urgent support Care Line at 510-643-2005 together.
  • Challenge statements of self-blame. The responsibility lies with the person who caused the harm, regardless of the survivor's actions.
  • If the survivor wants to seek medical attention or make a report, you can offer to accompany them.
  • Be patient, listen, and ask how you can help.
  • For a consultation, please contact the PATH to Care Center office at 510-642-1988. You may also consult the Gold Folder for helping students in distress.

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