RECOGNIZE THAT DISCLOSURE IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT AND TRAUMATIC FOR A SURVIVOR. THEY HAVE TRUSTED YOU WITH VERY PERSONAL INFORMATION AND ARE NOT REQUIRED TO SHARE ANY MORE THAN THEY FEEL COMFORTABLE DOING SO. THIS MAY BE DIFFICULT TO HEAR AS WELL. MAKE SURE TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, IN ADDITION TO SUPPORTING YOUR FRIEND. BELOW ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS ON RESPONDING TO A FRIEND:
1. LISTEN AND BELIEVE YOUR FRIEND.
Use the same language the survivor uses. If the survivor is not ready to call their experience a rape, sexual assault, etc., mimic their words for the violence rather than terminology that they may not align with right now.
Make sure the survivor is safe and help them to develop a safety plan. Help your friend to explore:
- Warning signs
- Coping strategies when they are alone
- Safe family/support people to contact if necessary
- Mental health services and hotlines
- Ensure the environment is safe by limiting their access to means of harm
Use phrases like:
- I believe you and support you.
- How can I help?
Thank you for trusting me with this.
- This is not your fault.
- You did nothing wrong.
- This took a lot of courage.
- I am proud of you.
- You are so brave.
2. MAINTAIN PRIVACY, BUT REALIZE YOUR LIMITS.
Avoid telling other people (even mutual friends) about what a survivor discloses, even if you think the survivor wouldn’t care or if these people wouldn’t tell anyone.
Try to remain calm, and breathe. Your panic may increase theirs, and lead to more emotional distress for both of you.
3. SHOW YOUR FRIEND WHERE THEY CAN FIND RESOURCES.
4. ALLOW YOUR FRIEND TO MAKE DECISIONS.
During a sexual assault, a person’s power and control is taken away. It is very important that a survivor is able to take back control of their experience by deciding the next step for them. This is a crucial part of healing. One way to do this is to allow them to decide whether to report (and how) or not. Respect whatever decision your friend chooses.
5. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
Know that the resources that you are giving to your friend may also be helpful to you. Do not be afraid to reach out for help as well. It’s okay to not be okay.
We are not lawyers, the information on this website does not constitute legal advice, and the information on this website in no way creates an attorney-client relationship between The Army of Survivors, its employees, Board Members, or other affiliates. We encourage you to contact a lawyer to discuss your complaint or potential lawsuit.