4 Ways You Can Support Survivors of Violence

Read time: 4 min

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Throughout this month content related to sexual assault, intimate partner violence, violence prevention, advocacy for victims and survivors, and education for the community will be posted.

 

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Approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men have experienced some form of intimate partner violence1. Looking at statistics of the prevalence of intimate partner and domestic violence can be an extremely disheartening experience. When a friend or loved one has experienced some form of violence, it is normal to want to do something proactive to provide help or support. Here are 4 ways that you can safely provide support to survivors of violence.

 

Believe Them

When someone tells you that they have been a victim of violence, perhaps the most impactful difference you can make in their lives and healing process is to believe them. Many survivors of violence do not disclose their experiences for fear of being shamed and further victimized by systems and individuals who do not believe them, or place any amount of blame onto them. Verbalizing that you believe what a survivor is telling you is one way you can help return power and let them know that you are a safe person to come to. Taking the time to verbally say “I believe you, and what happened is not your fault” may be the most impactful way you can help support survivors of violence

 

Do Not Make Statements About Retaliation

When a friend or loved one shares that they have experienced violence, it is natural to feel upset and angry at their perpetrator. However it is important to know that expressing a want to retaliate against the perpetrator can actually be further traumatizing to the survivor. They may feel afraid of being further victimized or put at risk, and may be reluctant to disclose their experience further if those they disclosed to express retaliatory desires. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is extremely important to remain in a nonjudgmental and supportive role when someone discloses an experience of violence. This is one way you can show them that you are a safe person to come to for help and support.

 

Be Honest About Your Boundaries

It can be emotionally taxing to hear about a friend or loved one’s experience with violence, particularly if you are a survivor yourself. As much as you may want to help and be present for emotional support, it is also important to make sure you are maintaining your own boundaries and keeping yourself safe. We can’t be everything for everyone, and that is why it is important to know that there are support resources both on campus and in the community that have trained professionals dedicated to supporting survivors of violence. If you yourself feel some vicarious trauma from learning of a friend’s experience with violence, know that you can seek support through the resources below as well!

 

Know Your Resources

It is ultimately up to the survivor whether they want to make a formal report of their experience, or further pursue support services like counseling or victim’s advocacy. Knowing what resources are available on campus and in the community is a great way you can help offer a bridge to support services. If they do express interest in reaching out to support services, you can help further by offering to accompany them to provide support. It’s a good idea to store contact information in your phone for easy and quick access.

 

On-Campus Resources

 

Off-Campus Resources

 

National Resources