How to Support Someone Affected by Sexual or Gender Violence

  1. Listen
  2. Believe

Below are some guidelines about how to support someone reporting sexual violence or gender based violence. They are only suggestions and serve as examples of how you could be supportive. Just remember: believe them, listen to them, and speak from your heart.

Things you can do and things you should avoid

Please do the following
Please avoid the following
  • Assure them that is it not their fault
  • Avoid asking questions out of curiosity
  • Assure them that they did the best they could
  • Try not to express shock, disgust, or anger, or judgement
  • Suggest that they talk to someone
  • Do not press for details
  • Assure them that they are not alone
  • Avoid asking questions without a reason to ask them
  • Be sensitive to their need for privacy
  • Do not minimize, deny, or blame them for their experience
  • Stay calm and be patient; give them time
  • Try not to touch the survivor without their permission
  • Do not put words in a survivor's mouth or tell them how they are feeling
  • Do not make decisions for the survivor
  • Use active listening skills to tune into the survivor's concerns and priorities, as these may be different from what you perceive their priorities to be
  • Avoid making promises or guarantees, such as, "you're going to be fine," or "your family will be supportive"

Remember that supporting someone will be hard. It is important to seek out support for yourself. If you recognize that you are the only resource for someone who has gone through a traumatic experience, suggest that they seek out another resource of their own. If you have any questions about how to support someone, or how to support yourself, reach out to one of the available resources. The Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine (SASSMM) is an excellent resource for both survivors and supporters; contact them at 1-800-822-5999 or 207-725-1500 if you are calling from a mobile phone. You can also contact a Safe Space Member for peer support, or The Counseling Center at 207-725-3145.