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Resources for Allies

Sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, and stalking can be difficult for those close to the survivor. You may not know what to do or say. You may feel powerless in the situation; you may want to help but do not know-how. In addition, some people may be confused by common misconceptions about sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, and stalking.

Start by Believing logo

How to Support a Survivor and “Hold Space”

Start By Believing

It can be very difficult for someone to come forward to share their story. Your job is to show support. The best thing you can do is to believe them.

“You are not alone.”

Remind the survivor that you are there for them and are willing to listen. Remind them there are others that care and services available to support them and help them recover.

“I’m sorry this happened.”

Acknowledge that this experience has affected their life. Phrases like “I imagine this is so difficult and “I am so glad you are sharing this with me” help to communicate empathy.

“Are you open to seeking medical attention?”

The survivor might need medical attention, or wish to have a nurse collect possible evidence. Offer to accompany them or give them information about the Survivor Advocacy Program who provides information about and accompaniment for medical services.

Holding Space

Walking alongside someone in whatever journey they are on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, or trying to impact the outcome.

Allow them to make choices

Sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking take power and control away from the survivor. Your loved one should have the power and control over their own actions and responses to this experience. Do not tell them what to do. More than anything else, you can help by accepting and supporting their decisions, as long as their safety isn't at risk. 

Take care of yourself

Understand that you will have to deal with your own feelings of frustration, anger and sadness. It is important to keep these feelings from being directed at the person you want to help through this crisis. SAP is here to support you as well.

Be present and listen

Being present & listening to someone is often the most helpful thing you can do:

  • Use deep listening
  • Don’t try to fix it
  • Provide unconditional positive regard
  • Allow them to feel whatever they are feeling
  • Practice non-judgement

Mandated Reporters

If you are a mandated reporter, listen and support first. Be present with the survivor and make the report after. Making a report can be done onlineRemember: Support first, paperwork after.

More Information

To learn specifics about how to support someone in the moment, visit No More's website.