I want to support a Victim/Survivor

When a peer, a friend, a colleague, or a student discloses to you that they have experienced a form of violence, it can be difficult to know how to react. If you need to talk about how this disclosure if impacting you, feel free to contact VPVA at 973-972-4636.

It is not uncommon to feel a bit uncomfortable or unsure of how to respond when someone shares they are a victim/survivor. This person has trusted you enough to share this information, and it is important to be non-judgmental so that this person knows there are people in their corner supporting their decisions and healing process. If you are looking for some guidance on how you can support that victim/survivor in your life, below are some helpful suggestions to guide you.

  1. LISTEN. Give them your undivided attention and space to share their story in a way that truly makes them feel heard.
    • “I’m here for you.”
    • “I’m listening.”
  2. VALIDATE. Acknowledge it might be difficult to share this information and honor their strength in telling you. In a culture that often blames victims/survivors, let them know that you believe them and that their feelings are valid. Give them a space where they can feel safe.
    • “Thank you for sharing this with me, I could see how difficult it may have been to tell me.”
    • “I’m so sorry this happened to you.”
    • “I believe you.”
    • “This wasn’t/isn’t your fault.”
  3. RESPECT. The experience of the victim/survivor is their story to tell. Respect their privacy and do not share this information with anyone else*. They have put their trust in you by sharing this story, be respectful of that trust by not asking questions that you don’t need to know the answers to and by not betraying their confidence.
  4. EMPOWER. Allow them to lead the conversation. You can help them discover options or ways that they want to handle this situation, but ultimately it is not your role to tell them what to do. After an act of violence, victims/survivors often feel like their power has been taken away from them. You can help restore that by supporting whatever choices they make in regards to reporting or dealing with their relationship.
    • “You don’t need to share with me anything you don’t want to.”
    • “Why don’t we talk about ways you can handle this now and then you can make a decision on what’s best.”
    • “How can I help you with this?”
  5. REFER & REACH OUT. Victims/survivors process the experience in their own way and on their own timeline. Connect them to a confidential resource like VPVA if they think it could be beneficial. You can offer to call with them as a support person or you can reach out yourself if you want more information.
    • “Maybe you’d want to talk to someone about this when you’re ready. Have you heard of VPVA?”
  6. CHECK IN. Follow up on how they are. Remember that this person is more than the victimization that they experienced. Ask them how they are doing, but also check in on other aspects of their life.

*If you are Faculty/Staff

Remember to be transparent. You are required as a Responsible Employee to report information you receive from students to the Title IX office. Share these reporting obligations/limits to confidentiality as soon as possible in the conversation with the student to ensure they are informed about what is going to happen and can make a decision about how much to share with you knowing this responsibility. You are obligated to only report this information to the Title IX office, and should continue to honor the privacy of the victim/survivor with all other individuals.