Strategies for Supporting Survivors
Listening to their story is the most important thing to do when supporting survivors. You do not have to be an expert to be there for someone, but it’s important to give them the floor without offering advice unless prompted. When listening, you should use validating language and remind them that what happened is not their fault, as oftentimes, survivors place blame on themselves.
A tip that was shared with me a few years ago that I often like to repeat is that you have to avoid going into crisis mode yourself, although this is hard to do. When listening to a survivor share difficult details, holding your own and staying calm is vital. Avoid swaying and maintain eye contact (if the person is comfortable with it) to communicate that you’re actively listening with plenty of empathy and support.
Other ways to support survivors include educating the public on consent and bystander intervention.
Consent and Bystander Intervention
RAINN defines consent as an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity that should be clearly and freely communicated. It is a verbal and affirmative expression of consent that can help you and your partner understand and respect each other’s boundaries. Consent must be freely given, enthusiastic, and ongoing, as it can be taken back at any time. Consent cannot be given by individuals who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, those who are underage, or those experiencing unequal power dynamics. It is also important to note that consent must also be given in romantic relationships. Just because you’re in a relationship with your partner(s) does not mean that consent is automatically granted. Additionally, just because consent is given for one thing does not mean it’s offered for another. Consent is an ongoing conversation.
Practicing consent and educating your communities on it is a huge component in supporting survivors and creating a world free from sexual violence.
Being active bystanders is also an essential step in the fight against sexual violence. It is easy to assume that someone else will take the necessary steps to prevent or stop something from happening, but it is vital to take personal responsibility.