Harmful and helpful responses

Do not

Do

Judge

Asking the person direct questions, trying to pull out details or talking incessantly.

Listen

Listening to what they say without judgement and letting them express themselves in their own way and at their own pace.

Doubt

Appearing to be sceptical or questioning what the person tells you.

Believe

Believing what they tell you because it’s their experience and their perception. For the moment, you must focus on what they are saying and experiencing.

Trivialize, minimize or over-dramatize

Receive

Receiving what the person says without minimalizing or amplifying the facts, emotions or consequences.

Emphasize the person's weaknesses, what they could have said or done

Encourage their strengths

Recognizing their accomplishments and stress their strength and courage for talking about the traumatic experience.

Ignore

Not getting involved in their story under the pretext that it’s not your business or that it’s not your problem or ignoring their request for help.

Give your support

Showing that you’re available whether for talking or to accompany them. If you feel incapable of helping them, it is important to tell them and to help them find another person who will be able to do so.

Blame

Blaming the person for what they didn’t do or implying that they must have provoked the incident or that they are partially responsible for what happened to them.

Remove guilt

Getting them to understand that it’s not their fault, that the aggressor is completely responsible for his actions and that their responsibility is to take care of themselves.

Over-protect

Smothering the person or over-protecting them by forbidding them to go out, see friends or sleep away from home.

Foster their independence

Helping them take back power over their life while also being there and giving them room to breathe and start functioning normally again.

Turn the page

Keeping the person from expressing negative emotions they feel under the pretext that they mustn’t live in the past or that it isn’t good for them.

Validate their feelings

Helping them express what they feel by normalizing their reactions, emotions and feelings (anger, resentment, guilt, low self-esteem, etc.).

Tools and resources

Please note that the feminine is used throughout this website, but it does not exclude any person who has been a victim of sexual violence.

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