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How to help support survivors of sexual violence

Sexual assault is more common than many people realize. It can happen to people of all ages, races, and genders. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that 433,684 people in the United States are sexually assaulted every year.

If someone you know has been impacted by sexually abuse, here are some tips to be there for that person.  

By utilizing these, you can provide the best possible support:

1.       Believe Them: Validate their experience. Don’t make assumptions or suggest it’s their fault.

It is a simple gesture that can help the victim feel safe and comfortable about their experience.

2.      Display Empathy: Explain to them your sorry for their experience. Assist them in finding resources such as medical, advocacy or counseling. Reassure them on how much they are loved and cared for by you. Demonstrate you will support them through their experience. Let them know that it was not their fault.

Here are some key phrases you can use:

  • Nothing you did caused this to happen to you
  • You did not do anything wrong
  • I will support you in any way you need

*Find more on page 6 of our Guide For SA Survivors & Their Loved Ones. 

3.        Listen Actively: Allow them to process at their own pace. Listen without judgment. You may be the first to hear their experience.  While listening you can follow these nonverbal cues to comfort them while listening:

  • Nodding
  • Engaging eye contact
  • Do your best to give them your attention- be engaged in the conversation
  • Be aware of your body language

*Allow them to have privacy and give them time to heal. Remember, you are there to assist them and to help inform them of all their options.

4.           Respect their autonomy:

Ask before you touch them- Ask before offering physical support, such as a hug or holding their hand.  Allow them to have privacy and give them time to heal. 

5.           Check up on them: See how they are doing. Ask about their day, how they feel, and if you can help them with anything. Assure them that you believe and support their decisions on the situation.

Sexual assault can be a traumatic experience. It’s important to provide the best support for someone who has shared with you. Listen to their experience, show them your support, and check in on their health. Let them know you are here to assist them in finding resources, seeking medical attention, and if needed, encouragement while reporting- if they choose to do so.

For more information visit our Guide For SA Survivors & Their Loved One

Anyone seeking support or information regarding domestic or sexual violence is encouraged to reach out. Trained advocates are ready to listen and help. 

24-Hour Sexual Assault Hotline: 559-732-7273

Physical Address for Walk-In Services

401 North Church Ave | Visalia, CA

Thank you to our generous sponsors.

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