Knowing what to say after a survivor has disclosed an assault can be difficult. While there is no one “right” thing to say to a survivor, an empathetic response to their disclosure is crucial. Here are some responses to let a survivor know that you support them:
“I’m so sorry this happened to you.” Showing a survivor empathy can build rapport and trust between you and the survivor.
“I’m here to help you get support.” A survivor trusted you and shared what happened to them. Let them know that you are there to ensure their safety and will respect their privacy.
“How can I help?” Let the survivor know that you are there for them. Ask them how you can help can put decisions into their hands and help them feel more in control about what is happening. However, it is also important to be clear about your role, any limitations you may have, and other avenues of support available to them.
This is not a comprehensive list of what you can say to a survivor to show empathy. Commanders can find tips on what to say and what not to say to survivors of sexual violence in the Safe Helpline self-paced course, How to Support a Survivor, or by reviewing the information on this webpage.