How to Support Survivors
The first people trauma survivors tell about their experience can have a profound impact on their healing process and future disclosures. Research from campus climate surveys shows that when survivors disclose their experiences, they most often turn to close friends. This underscores the importance of fostering a peer culture that is supportive, non-judgmental, and well-equipped to offer resources to survivors (Buelow, 2015).
Check out the following information for how you can help a friend. Additionally, “Safe@Weber: Supporting Survivors” is available monthly for the WSU community. Sign up via Training Tracker in the eWeber portal or search for an online version in the Bridge app in the eWeber portal.
Follow the ABCDEs of Advocacy:
Affirm, Believe, Connect, Direct, Empower
Let the survivor talk about their experience if they come to you. This will validate their reactions and help them feel more “normal” and less alone. Some survivors blame themselves for what they did or didn’t do. It’s important for them to understand that they were having a trauma response, much of which is dictated by the brain. Focusing on their resilience and survival is affirming.
- "I'm honored that you trust me enough to share this with me."
- "It took a lot of strength and courage for you to....[seek help, report, tell me, etc.]"
- "You are having a normal response to an abnormal situation."
- "Whatever you did to survive was the right thing because it worked."
Want to Learn More?
"Depending on where you have been getting information about sexual assault, you may have heard the term secondary survivor. A secondary survivor is someone who is close to the survivor and may experience some of the same side effects such as personality changes, depression, and emotions related to the trauma. There is no right or wrong way to feel after a survivor discloses to you that he/she was sexually assaulted. You may experience some of these side effects or you may not. The important part to note is that it is normal. If you are not experiencing these reactions, it doesn’t mean you are a bad friend. If you are experiencing them, it doesn’t mean you are taking anything away from the survivor" (As One, 2017).
Check out these resources to learn more about secondary survivors, supporting friends, and taking care of yourself: