Below are some things to consider when listening/talking to a survivor of interpersonal violence:
- Listen. Often a person in crisis just needs someone to hear their story. You can show you’re really listening to your friend by nodding, looking your friend in the eye, saying “uh-huh”, etc.
- Believe. One of the most important things you can do is to communicate that you believe what your friend is telling you. Survivors often worry that they will not be believed or have been told by the perpetrator that no one will believe them.
- Help to clarify what you think your friend is saying. Listen carefully to your friend and then tell them what you think they said about their feelings. Your friend may be talking about her/his emotions in a way that seems jumbled. You can help by sorting out and repeating back what was said. Say things like: “It sounds like…” or “What I hear you saying is…”
- Let your friend decide what they want to talk about. Don’t push your friend to talk about something if they are not comfortable. If you feel you need to ask questions ask gently, so your friend doesn’t feel that you’re prying. Ask general questions, e.g., “Do you want to talk about what happened?” rather than, “How were you raped?”
- Avoid asking accusing questions.The perpetrator is to blame for what happened. You may feel angry and frustrated about what happened, but don’t take it out on your friend. Don’t ask questions about why your friend did (or didn’t do) a certain thing. Survivors do the best they can with confusing, terrifying, or life-threatening situations.
- Don’t make decisions for your friend. The experience of a interpersonal violence incident is one of having complete control taken away. You can help your friend regain power over their life by letting your friend make their own decisions about what to do next. Help your friend get information on what all of the options are, but let them make the decisions.
- Show that you care. Remind your friend that you care, and that this crisis hasn’t changed that fact. You can show your affection by hugging (check your friend is okay to be hugged), telling your friend that you love their, or even just sitting quietly together. You may not feel that you are doing much, but your presence can mean a great deal.
- Remind your friend to have self-compassion and self-care. Your friend has been through a very difficult experience. Remind your friend to be good to themselves.
- Take care of yourself. It can be very upsetting and traumatic when a friend is victimized. You may feel powerless, guilty, shocked, angry, or scared. These feelings are normal, natural responses. Be sure to be kind to yourself and get help managing these emotions.Information taken from Harvard University’s “How can I help my friend” publication. The Office of Sexual Assault Response and Prevention. 2007
What to say to someone who has survived interpersonal violence…
- “No one deserves to be treated that way. This was not your fault. You did not deserve to be ___________(hit, assaulted, treated that way)”
- “Whatever you did to survive the situation was the right thing to do.”
- “I believe you. It was not your fault. This was something that someone did TO you.”
- “Regardless of ____________, (how you were dressed, how much you drank, if you were flirting, what you did prior to the sexual assault, etc) there is no excuse for sexual assault, violence, stalking etc. You did not deserve this.”
- “That must have been a very unsettling /scary /confusing /uncomfortable /frightening experience.”
- “You are not crazy. You are reacting normally to a difficult situation.”
- “It doesn’t make a difference if you consented to do other things sexually with this person. You said “no” to this part, and that person did not respect you. You have the right to change your mind at anytime when you are with someone.”
Referring someone to the Phoenix Center at Auraria
- We’re really fortunate to have a center on the Auraria campus to help students/staff/faculty with this kind of concern. They can assist you in accessing resources, determining your next steps. Let’s give them a call.
- We have a center here on campus called the Phoenix Center at Auraria. They are trained to understand the reactions that you may experience. Have you thought about calling them?
- The Phoenix Center at Auraria can assist you in getting connected with other services on and off campus to make sure you are getting what you need after this serious situation.
- Do you want me to call the Phoenix Center at Auraria for you?
- Here is their 24/7 helpline phone number – 303-556-CALL (2255)