How to support someone you know who has experienced gender-based violence
- Listen to what your friend is telling you and take them seriously.
- Believe them— People rarely make up stories about gender-based violence. However, it can be very frightening to think about not being believed so it is important that your friend know that you believe them.
- Let them know you care. If you are having a hard time thinking of something to say, you might want to try saying something like, “I’m so sorry this happened to you,” or “I’m glad you could share this with me.” Do not blame, second-guess or ask them lots of questions.
- Let them tell you as much or as little as they feel comfortable with. You don’t need to ask for specific details, names or more information than they offer. Prying questions could make your friend feel that you are doubting them.
- Reassure them that the assault is not their fault. No one asks or deserves to experience violence.
- Everyone resists violence in different ways. Sometimes not doing something is resisting violence. Let your friend know that whatever they did was what they needed to at the time. Avoid questions like, “Why didn’t you fight back?”. For more information, see our link about resistance
- Let them be in control of what they want to do next. This is especially important as they may feel that power and control has been taken away or used against them during the assault. Help them feel more in control of their life by unconditionally supporting their decisions.
- Let them know that they are not alone in this. Many survivors feel that they are the only one this has happened to and may feel their reactions are abnormal or mean that they are not coping well.
- Offer to come with them to the Anti.Violence.Project or another community organization for support and information.
- Take care of yourself too. Hearing about gender-based violence can be difficult for the supporter so be sure to access support for yourself too if you need it.
Also, please check out UBUNTU’s fantastic zine, Supporting a Survivor of Sexual Assault
Join us for a free workshop designed to help you support survivors of violence. Our workshops are free of charge and open to students and community members.