There are many ways you can support a family member, friend, loved one, work colleague, sister, brother — all it takes is a listening ear and a willingness to help.
Listen without judgement. If someone discloses abuse to you, it could be the very first time they’re sharing that news with anyone. Listen without judgement and without blame. Understand that there are many reasons why victims may be unable to leave their situation. Try to avoid offering advice – no coulda, woulda, shouldas – and instead, just listen.
Let them know you believe them. Try not to run in and offer advice, but listen and assure them that you believe what they are telling you, while being mindful to let them set the pace of the conversation and share as they feel comfortable doing so. Check in often and let them know you are there for support.
Ask questions such as, “Do you feel safe right now?” and “What do you need to feel safe?” to help survivors assess their situation. They are the experts when it comes to their relationship, so rather than rushing in with advice, listen to their safety concerns and try to help them develop a safety plan.
As we’ve said, survivors are experts when it comes to their relationship and circumstances, so it’s best not to try to “convince” them of anything. Let them lead the conversation and action as they feel comfortable and let them know you respect their decisions — even if you don’t agree with them. Your goal is to be a source of support, not tell them what to do. Respect their choices and their right to make their own decisions.
There are a wide variety of support programs available after a precursory search online. Research the various programs as they relate to the survivor and have those resources on hand for the next conversation. Skagit DVSAS offers a wide variety of support to survivors, but we also offer support to those who are supporting survivors. Feel free to contact us for additional resources to provide your survivor.
Survivors of sexual and domestic abuse often experience a remarkable loss of power. Do all you can to help them rediscover their autonomy and independence — without giving advice or judgement. Try not to pressure the survivor to react in a certain way or take certain actions. Empower them to take control of their own life back, while reminding them of the power of their own agency.