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How to Support a Survivor of Interpersonal Violence


  • Put them at ease. That means letting them know that you hear what they are saying and that you are emotionally open to them.

  • Express anger and sadness at their injustice.

  • Validate their feelings about the experience, acknowledging pain without catastrophizing.

  • At the same time, remember that while sexual abuse is always inexcusable, it isn’t always traumatic. Stay attune to the survivor’s attitude, and don’t assume or dictate how she or he must feel.

  • Express admiration for their courage, and recognize how difficult this must have been for them.

  • Be strong and take care of yourself.


  • Question the validity of the victim’s claims.

  • Seem cold or unapproachable.

  • Make excuses for the perpetrator.

  • Tell the survivor what they must do.

  • Minimize the assault.

  • Question why the survivor has decided to tell you now even if it has been months or years since the assault, or question why they are not leaving their abusive partner.

  • Shoulder the burden alone.

  • Share the survivor’s story without his or her permission.

Additional Things to Consider

  • Be there for the victim in the capacity they need. This may mean listening to them recount the experience or going out for a fun dinner to take their mind off of the event.

  • Being told that your friend’s assailant is an acquaintance or mutual friend can be extremely difficult.

More Information on How to Respond to a Survivor


Know Your IX, Support a Survivor. (n.d.). Retrieved from URL