People often wonder what they should say when someone tells them they were sexually assaulted. The last thing they want is to say the “wrong thing,” or somehow make the situation worse. Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with these tips.
Three little words make all the difference for survivors: “I believe you.” Remember, if you react with doubt or blame, they may never tell anyone else. You can help them get what they need.
Simple responses work best. Remember, your focus is on supporting the survivor, not determining exactly what happened. So try some simple, supportive responses, like: “I’m sorry this happened. I am here for you.” “You can tell me as little or as much as you like.” “It’s not your fault.” “I’m glad you told me. I’m so proud of you.”
You might be tempted to ask questions right away. “Why didn’t you call me for a ride?” “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Even with the best of intentions, questions like this can sound accusing and make the survivor blame themselves even more than they already do.
When in doubt, simply ask how you can help. “What can I do to support you?” “Do you want me to stay with you tonight?” “I can go with you to the hospital or police station.” Let the survivor know you are there for them, but always let them make the choice to accept your help or not.