Learn more about responding to survivors.
Supporting Survivors Educational Video Series
Trauma-Informed Approach and 50-First Words:
How to support a survivor in a trauma-informed manner while being cognizant of culturally-specific barriers to help-seeking for those with minoritized identities
The First 2 Hours:
How to support a survivor in the first 2 hours after they disclose a traumatic experience to you
Special Considerations for Supporting Survivors
Sexual and relationship violence, stalking, sexual harassment, and gender-based discrimination not only affects victims, but also their friends, family, and the entire community. In addition to supporting their loved one, those who are close to the survivor are must also manage the effects of the assault on their own well-being and sense of safety. The trauma of sexual and relationship violence, stalking, sexual harassment, and gender-based discrimination can cause a range of emotions including guilt, shame, vulnerability, anger, and depression, and confusion. Those that live with the survivor may become concerned about their security and may have similar feelings and responses as those the survivor experiences.
It is important to remember that the survivor's power and control have been violated and it may take a long time for them to regain their sense of "self." Even then, they may integrate behaviors and characteristics that may be different from how they were prior to the abuse or assault. This is normal and expected and may require a great deal of patience and understanding. The sensitivity, respect, and support that a survivor receives play an integral role in their recovery. By keeping these points in mind, you can help to facilitate this process.
Supporting a Friend
• Educate yourself on the options for resources and discuss them with the survivor.
• Remember that a survivor’s encounter with you is only one stop on their journey to
recovery. Regardless of your concern or best intentions, you will not be their sole source
of healing. Acknowledge and accept your limitations and know when to ask for help.
• Practice regular healthy self-care habits.
a. Learn and follow the conversation goals and use them as guidelines when supporting a survivor:
i. Provide support and assistance.
ii. Determine and address survivor's prioritized concerns.
iii. Identify options and provide information to facilitate survivor's informed decisions.
iv. Make appropriate referrals.
a. Inform the survivor if your role requires you to notify professional staff.
b. Ensure and secure privacy. Try not to discuss in a public space or where others may interrupt or overhear.
c. Listen attentively and be prepared for a critical conversation.
d. Set boundaries. You should not take on more responsibility in assisting the survivor than you can handle or more than they request from you.
e. Let the survivor tell their story.
f. Assess the safety and physical condition of the survivor. Observe for injuries and offer connection to medical attention.
g. Provide options, not advice.
h. Do not attempt to save, rescue, enable, or take sides.
i. Try to name behaviors, rather than label the relationship or the partner.
j. Focus on empowerment, not enablement or ownership.
i. "I'm sorry this happened to you."
ii. "I believe you."
iii. "It's not your fault."
iv. "No one deserves to be hurt in this way."
v. "You have options."
vi. "You did what you needed to do to survive."
vii. "I'm willing to do what I can to help you."
a. Exercise discretion and do not share the incident with others without the survivor's consent. Notify appropriate staff if this is required in your role as a student employee.
b. Follow-up with survivor (with their consent).
c. Practice regular healthy self-care habits.
IV. Safety Planning
a. Whether or not your friend is ready or able to leave an abusive relationship, they can assess and utilize available resources to create a safety plan and reduce the risk of harm for yourself and others. Although victims cannot control the abuse, there are several steps that they can take while in the relationship, residing with the abuser, and before and after leaving their partner.
V. Take Care of Yourself
a. Learn as much as you can about abusive relationships. Be as familiar as you can with community resources and common reactions to relationship abuse. This will help you better understand the survivor's experiences and the process of recovery. CST has more information and is available to process with you.
b. Be aware of your own reactions to relationship abuse: You may feel a sense of violence when someone you care about has been abused. You may experience feelings of confusion, hurt, or anger. You may wish you could make the survivor's pain go away. No matter how helpful you are, you can't make the relationship abuse disappear. The best you can do is help the survivor find ways to help themselves. Your support is much helpful to the survivor than your anger and frustration.
c. Recognize the difference between what you want and what the survivor wants: Try to distinguish between what you are doing to make yourself feel better from what you are doing to help the survivor, such as beating up the assailant or try to get the survivor to just "forget about it." Instead, ask the survivor what would be most helpful.
d. Know your limitations: Every individual has a limit on how much they can give. This does not make you a failure. It is important to know your own limitations of support and to share these clearly with the survivor. Provide the survivor with other support options; for example, provide them with the CST phone number. Let the survivor know you will not feel hurt if they choose to talk with someone else.
e. Seek support for yourself. Your support plays a critical role in the survivor's recovery. Talking with someone who can help you work through your own feelings will better enable you to support the survivor. Remember to respect the survivor's privacy when seeking support from others.