1) “I believe you.”
These three simple words are often the most important. Instead of launching into a series of victim-blaming questions (such as “Were you drinking?” or “Who were you with?”), it is important to look your friend in the eyes and say, “I believe you.” This sets the conversation off on a very supportive tone, and lets your friend know that you are on their side.
2) “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
Another really simple phrase that speaks leaps and bounds to all folks experiencing trauma is a heartfelt, “I’m so sorry that happened to you.” Again, this should be an obvious response but sometimes we don’t think of it until later. Again, it denotes that you are taking the side of your friend and that you are with them in the days ahead.
3) “Would you like to talk about? I’m here to listen if you want to.”
A big step in healing is for the survivor to talk through the assault and to have another person bear witness to the tragedy. This allows the person to know they are not alone in recovery. It is important to engage in active listening and provide a space for the survivor to talk. Do not give advice; this is your turn to listen. Be aware that this is perhaps the first time they are telling anyone their story so it might be confusing (because of memory and trauma). Your job is not to ask questions but to be present with them.
4) “Here are some local resources.
Would you like to look at them with me? Would you prefer to do it alone?” It is important to remind survivors of the options that are available to them, and remember to let them, and them alone, determine what they want to do next. A quick google search will provide you with the best local resources in your community, and you can always refer them to national organizations like RAINN that have support lines 24 hours of the day.
5) “If you want to talk about this later, I am here for you.”
When you are wrapping up your conversation, be sure to let your friend know that you are there for them and that willing to talk through options and their healing process with them in the future as well.
It is important to remember to take care of yourself during this time as well. You are there to be a supporter, not to be a problem solver for the survivor. If any of the information is triggering, you too, should reach out for help.
The world can feel isolating and scary when we feel like we’re in it alone. Utilizing these phrases ensure that we are a part of something larger, and that we look out for and care for each other. And that’s exactly the kind of world we should be working to create.