Supporting a survivor

It can take a survivor months, years, even decades to tell someone about what happened to them. How you respond is crucial in their recovery journey.

How to support a survivor of rape, sexual assault or child sexual abuse

  • Listen without judging them.
  • Reassure them that you believe them.
  • Do not show shock or disgust.
  • Tell them they are not to blame. Only the abuser is to blame.
  • Be careful not to overwhelm them with your anger towards the abuser. They need space and time to work their way through what are often confusing feelings about what has happened.
  • Do not push them to talk about their experiences if they do not want to.
  • Do not push them to report it to the police. They don’t have to if they don’t want to.
  • Be aware that they might find it hard to trust you or anyone.
  • Ask them what you can do that is helpful to them.
  • Be hopeful that they will regain a sense of power and self determination in the future.
  • Help them to get professional help, particularly if you think they might hurt themselves.
  • If you are the first person they tell, write down the date, time and factual information if they intend to tell the police; you may be a witness to their first disclosure of being abused.
  • Know your own limits and be honest about what you can do to help and what you cannot do. Help them to get support from other people as well as yourself.

Looking after yourself

You may feel upset, shocked or angry about what you hear. You may even feel frustrated and helpless. What you are feeling is important and it may help you to find someone to listen to you.

Our Helpline is for non-survivors as well as survivors and is free and confidential to call. It is available Monday to Thursday (excluding public holidays) from 10am to 12 noon on 0808 145 1887.

We also have books you may borrow on supporting survivors.

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