Support An Adult Survivor
To speak up and share about an incident of sexual violence takes a lot of courage and strength. Being a supportive listener can make a big difference to them and can go a long way in making sure that an individual feels safe, understood and comfortable. If a survivor of gender-based or sexual violence speaks to you, here are some useful tips on how to respond to them and to be a good support system: 1) Be empathetic. It is important that you listen to them without judgment and without any harshness. 2) Believe the survivor. It can be very difficult for a survivor to speak up and to share their story – especially when the challenges surrounding them are not only internal (such as fear and trauma) but also external (such as stigma and judgment). 3) Encourage them to understand that they are not at fault and are blameless. Survivors often tend to internalize self-blame – especially if the perpetrator is someone they know, or had an intimate relationship with. The survivor is in no way the reason for sexual violence, and it is important that you remain encouraging of the belief that they are not at fault. 4) Be there for them. Let the person know that you are there for them, that you are both, willing to listen and talk to them when they feel like. Make them aware of where they may reach you if they would so wish to. It might be a good idea to let them know that nothing about what they faced changes your viewpoint of them. Sometimes, some survivors may be concerned that sharing what happened may change the way people see or think of them, especially when it is a close relationship. 5) Offer up options to them. Survivors may benefit from seeking medical, legal, consular help, skills development, shelter and emergency support. It is important to bear in mind that a survivor is the one to make the decision on whether or not to seek help and what kind of help it is that they want to seek. As a supporter, it is a good idea to make them aware of what options it is that they have, so they can make an informed decision. It is also a good idea to offer to accompany them.