When someone discloses a history of sexual abuse/assault, it might be difficult to know how to respond. Your response can be crucial in helping that person feel empowered to seek support and move towards healing. Supportive responses can also drastically impact a survivor’s risk for developing post traumatic stress.  Here are a few guidelines, to assist you in this process:

  • Listen to and believe the person.


  • Reassure them that they are not alone, that they are not at fault and that there are supportive services in place to help them move towards healing.


  • Normalize their reaction to what happened: there is no right or wrong way to respond to trauma. Often survivor’s feel that their reactions are not okay. Having your validation and support can go a long way in helping them feel safe asking for support.


  • Express genuine sympathy and avoid any judgment or questions that assert that somehow the survivor’s actions are to blame for what happened to them (i.e. what were you wearing? How much did you have to drink? Why did you take that route home?).


  • Be supportive and available.


  • Research resources for both yourself and the survivor.


Written by Chauntel R. Gerdes, LMSW and Merritt Stewart 

Victim Services Program/Project Envision, Mount Sinai-Beth Israel Hospital 


All rights reserved. © Hold Me Right LLC  

This project is made with the support of GLAM4GOOD RAINN, Safe Horizon and Voices and Faces Project.