It is difficult to know what to say or avoid saying when someone tells you that they have been a victim of sexual violence. The counsellor team at the Sexual Violence Helpline is here to support victims as well as anyone who is helping them.
The Sexual Violence Helpline is the only helpline dedicated to helping people affected or concerned by sexual violence. The phone counsellors are available from anywhere at any time whenever you have access to a phone.
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1. Be Receptive
Receive what they are saying without minimizing or exaggerating the facts, emotions or consequences. Control your own reactions so that they will feel free to express their feelings, even if they’re not the same as yours.
Ex: “Do you want to tell me how you are feeling?”
2. Recognize Their Strength
Help them to feel good about what they did. Point out their strengths and their courage in talking about what happened to them.
Ex: “I think you’re very brave to talk about this. It takes a lot of strength and courage to do what you’ve done.”
3. Alleviate Guilt
Help the victim to understand that they are in no way to blame for the sexual violence that was done to them. Their responsibility is to take care of themselves in order to recover. The perpetrator of the violence is solely responsible for their acts.
Ex: “It was absolutely not your fault. That person is entirely responsible for what they did to you.”
4. Encourage Independence
Help the person to regain control of their life, offering them the support they need/want. Give them room to breathe so that they can return to their usual level of functioning.
Ex: “What do you need?”
5. Acknowledge and Validate Their Feelings
Help them to express what they’re feeling. Reassure them that their reactions (anger, resentment, guilt, low self-esteem) are normal.
Ex: “It’s perfectly OK for you to feel like that. You have the right.”
Call Sexual Violence Helpline at 1-888-933-9007 to find out more or visit their website here.