Women Sexual Assault Centre
Home » Get Help » General Information

site map


Supporting a survivor of sexualized violence can feel overwhelming and uncertain. Trust your connection with the survivor and try to balance the support you offer with support you give yourself. These are some suggestions:


  • Offer support and listen to her, making space for whatever feelings she expresses

  • Let her know you believe her experience

  • Tell her that you believe in her ability to recover, that healing is possible

  • Let her know that what ever she did or did not do was what she could to survive the circumstances

  • Validate what she sees to be the effects of her experience: it is important not minimize her experience to try to get her to feel better

  • Tell her that your feelings for her have not changed as a result of hearing about this

  • Tell her that she did not deserve what happened to her

  • Let her know that 100% of the responsibility rests with the offender

  • Reassure her that she is not blamed

  • Support comes in many forms; talking may feel overwhelming, be open to other ways of being supportive (walking together, doing "normal" activities together, offering to help with everyday things, etc.)

  • Ask permission before offering physical support or comfort

  • Say "I believe you"

  • Focus your energy on her rather than trying to understand why the offender did what he/she did


Educate Yourself:

  • Learn about the issue so you can understand her experience better

  • Reinforce that the abuse is entirely the offender's responsibility

  • Accept that the relationships in the survivor’s life may be strained or stressed due to the impact of sexual violation

  • Be aware that some of her feelings about the offender maybe inappropriately directed at a safe person, and that you can gently notice this and recognize that it is a normal way of dealing with overwhelming feelings

  • Let her make her own decisions

  • Accept that you can't fix it

  • Resist the urge to over-protect; going out with friends can assist with her recovery and sense of power in the world.

  • It is best not take control of everything in order to "look after" her

  • Recognize that your role is not to fix, but to support: ask what she needs


Take Care of Yourself:

  • Recognize your feelings as separate from hers, and share your feelings appropriately

  • Recognize and respect your own limits, find ways of communicating these limits

  • Find a supportive person to talk to about the impact on you; talk to a friend you trust, try a safe support group or make use of counselling support or a crisis line

  • Simplify your life when possible; take a time out if you need to

  • Stay connected to your boundaries and values Set realistic goals

  • Celebrate the small things

  • Practice self awareness: allow yourself to grieve and feel your feelings

  • Recognize that healing will have its own pace, and that the crisis stage will pass