SafeHouse Center
24/7 HelpLine: 734-995-5444
If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
Linea de Apoyo de 24 horas: 734-995-5444
Si esta en grave peligro, llame a 911.

How to Support Survivors of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

How Can I Support a Survivor of Sexual Assault?

Start by believing.

Your first instinct may be to give advice, but it’s important to ask how to support survivors in their choices about what to do next. Be there to support them. 

  • Listen Without Judgement
    • It’s normal to feel reactions such as anger or shock, sometimes expressing those reactions can make a survivor feel like they are responsible for your reactions. Try your best to stay calm, listen without asking too many questions which can feel victim blaming. 
  • Let your loved one know they are not alone.
    • Offer support, offer your time, and remind your friend of available resources. 
  • Empower your loved one.
    • Help your loved one understand and consider options
    • Let your loved one make decisions, and offer to go along for support. 
  • Ask if There is Anything You Can Do
    • It will mean a tremendous amount just knowing that there is someone around who they trust, someone who loves and cares for them. You can always ask how you can help, if there is anything you can do. 
  • Keep Supporting
    • Healing has no timeline; each journey is unique so it will look different for each person. Provide ongoing support and make time to check-in. 

How Can I Support a Survivor of Domestic Violence?

If you think your loved one is being abused, be supportive by listening. The person being abused may not be ready or able to leave the relationship right now. Do not judge them or pressure them to leave.

I’m worried…

Knowing or thinking that someone you care about is in a violent relationship can be very hard. You may fear for their safety — and maybe for good reason. Allow them to decide what to do and to disclose when they are ready.

Each situation is different, and the people involved are all different too. Here are some ways to support a loved one who is being abused:

  • Be supportive and listen. If they want to talk, set up a time for a call or go for a walk. Try to make sure you have privacy and won’t be distracted or interrupted and that you are separate from the suspected abuser. You can be most supportive by simply listening to what the survivor has to say. Remember that abuse is not an easy subject to discuss, so recognize the strength involved in them telling his or her story. Do not pressure someone to share details. Let them talk.
  • Don’t place shame, blame, or guilt. Don’t say, “You just need to leave.” Instead, say something like, “I get scared thinking about what might happen to you.” Tell them you understand that their situation is very difficult. Be cautious of victim-blaming statements. (examples: Were you drinking? Did you say anything back? Why are you staying?)
  • Offer specific help. You might say you are willing to just listen, to help them with child care, or to provide transportation, for example.
  • If they ask for help with a safety plan. This could include packing important items and helping them find a “safe” word. This is a code word that can be used to let you know they are in danger without an abuser knowing. It could also include telling them that you know of a great organization that is free and confidential who can help.
  • Encourage them to talk to someone who can help. Let them know that SafeHouse Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can offer advice, support, and services. It is free and confidential.
  • If they decide to stay, continue to be supportive.  It may be hard for you to understand, but people stay in abusive relationships for many reasons. Be supportive, no matter what they decide to do.
  • If they decide to leave, continue to offer help. Even though the relationship was abusive, they may feel sad and lonely once it is over. Offer to be someone they can lean on as they move through the process.

More questions? Please call our 24-Hour Helpline (734) 995-5444.