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Support survivors when they tell me their stories and experiences by refraining from victim blaming words and behaviors

Support survivors when they tell me their stories and experiences by refraining from victim blaming words and behaviors

It can be hard to know what to do when somebody discloses that they have been abused or assaulted. It’s natural to feel nervous that you’ll say the wrong thing, or even to feel angry that somebody has hurt the person who is disclosing to you. There are a few key things to remember when you’re in this situation that will help the person disclosing to you feel supported. 

1. Take a deep breath and slow down. Don’t talk over the other person. Let them explain to you what happened at any pace they feel comfortable with.

2. Show that you’re listening. Nonverbal cues such as nodding and making sounds such as “mhm” can let the other person know that you’re engaged and interested.

3. Avoid interrogating them. You may have an instinctive response to start asking questions about where they were, what they were doing, etc. Let the survivor tell the story at their own pace. You may not completely understand every part of their story at first, and that’s okay. Let them reveal details as they feel comfortable.

4. Withhold judgment about the survivor’s choices and behavior. Keep in mind that abuse and assault is always a choice that one person makes to harm another. Even if a survivor was engaging in behavior that you think was risky or dangerous, it does not help to question why they were engaging in those behaviors. Questioning why a survivor was doing something when they were abused or assaulted is victim blaming, because you are implying that they could have avoided it by behaving differently. The truth is, people are abused and assaulted in endless different places, wearing all sorts of different outfits, and doing all sorts of different things. The most supportive thing you can do is tell a survivor that it was not their fault they got hurt. 

5. Encourage them to reach out to other resources. Your support can be the bridge between a survivor and the community resources that they need. Familiarizing yourself with local organizations and what they have to offer can make a huge difference when a survivor discloses to you. Below are some local resources along with just some of the services they can provide.

Humboldt Domestic Violence Services:
Offers a 24/7 Support Line, Restraining Order Assistance, Court Accompaniment, Support Groups, Peer Counseling, referrals, and more. Support Line: 707-443-6042

Two Feathers Native American Family Services:
Offers case management, crisis intervention, emergency shelter, client transportation for essential meetings and appointments, and more. 

North Coast Rape Crisis Team:
Offers 24/7 Hotlines for Del Norte and Humboldt County, individual counseling, support groups for adult survivors of sexual assault, court accompaniments, and more. 

National Domestic Violence Hotline:
Offers a 24/7 hotline, as well as an online chat option available through the website listed above.

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