Helpful Phrases to support Victim/Survivors:
“I’m sorry this happened.”
Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life. Phrases like “This must be really tough for you,” and, “I’m so glad you are sharing this with me,” help to communicate empathy.
Brene Brown, Ph.D. has a great video on Empathy
“It’s not your fault.”
Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.
Brene Brown, Ph.D. has a great video on Blame
“I believe you.”
It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed. Leave any “why” questions or investigations to the experts—your job is to support this person. Be careful not to interpret calmness as a sign that the event did not occur—everyone responds differently. The best thing you can do is to believe them.
“You are not alone in this.”
Remind the survivor that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story. Remind them there are other people in their life who care and that there are service providers who will be able to support them as they recover from the experience.
“Are you open to seeking medical attention?”
The survivor might need medical attention, even if the event happened a while ago. You can support the survivor by offering to accompany them or find more information. It’s okay to ask directly, “Are you open to seeking medical care?”
“This doesn’t change how I think of you.”
Some survivors are concerned that sharing what happened will change the way other people see them, especially a partner. Reassure the survivor that surviving sexual violence doesn’t change the way you think or feel about them.