what to say to a survivor of sexual violence

I’ve heard it all from, “God wanted it this way” “are you sure that really happened” “but it happened a long time ago” to “you are being dramatic” and “just move on”. Everytime it hurts the same. It’s like being stabbed in the face. I wish we were more compassionate, understanding, empathetic.

When interacting with a survivor, keep in mind that while it is difficult for you to hear what they’re saying or think of a response, it’s more difficult for them. Not just surviving the violence but living with it every day and deciding to share with someone else. 

Remind yourself that it’s not about you.

So I came up with this list. Please add anything I’ve missed. 

When someone tells you they’re a survivor

(Many people read too much into this. They may be sharing with you because they need to get this off their chest. How you react to this information will determine further interactions.)

-Thank you for sharing this with me

-Wow, I don’t know what to say your bravery has left me speechless. How can I be of support?

-I’m here to listen to everything you want and need to share

-I believe you

-Things like this shouldn’t happen, thank you for sharing, you are courageous

-I am here for you, you’re not alone

-How can I be of support?

-I don’t know what to say but I can listen

Someone tells you they need support in ____________ area

-Do you want me to come with you while you make a report?

-Would you feel more comfortable if I went with you to the clinic?

-Yes, I can be here when you make that call

-Yes, I can be here with you and we can search for support groups or counseling services together

-What would be best for you? I’m here to support your decision

-I don’t think I’ll be able to go with you to the police station/clinic/support group/healing circle/[insert activity here] but I can be of support after, maybe have something to eat and talk it through?

-I’ve heard about this club/group/center/organization that provides really great support and services, maybe you’d be interested in checking it out?

Statements that include God/religion in a positive way

(Please don’t tell anyone that “God wanted it this way”)

Instead

-God made you strong and brave to overcome many obstacles

-People do bad things and sometimes it doesn’t make sense, but we have each other and God to walk on a path of healing

-Sometimes people do things that we don’t understand, we don’t have all the answers but in prayer we can find relief

-It’s hard to make sense of all this and try to understand why bad things happen to people, but we can walk on a path to healing because God made you a fighter.