How Friends and Family can be Supportive to Survivors

  • Listen to and believe the survivor
  • Thank the survivor for trusting them enough to share their story
  • Help the survivor understand it is not their fault
  • It is natural for friends and family to feel anger, sadness and grief; it is helpful for you to address these feelings to be an effective support for the survivor
  • Seek resources to educate yourself on options for the survivor and yourself
  • Understand that survivors will respond to trauma in different ways, and a variety of reactions may surface as a survivor makes sense of how they have been affected by the trauma

It is important that the survivor is encouraged, but not pressured, to obtain counseling as soon as possible. In many cases, counseling is beneficial for the survivor to manage the issues associated with the victimization and can assist with assimilating the experience into their life. You do not have to fill the role of a professional counselor. Your understanding, lack of judgment, and ability to listen are what the survivor needs most.

Friends and family of survivors are also eligible for counseling services at The Women and Gender Resource Center at no cost. The WGRC Victim Advocate can also assist with providing referrals and information for the Tuscaloosa area and in other cities should you or the survivor decide to relocate. Please call 205-348-5050 for more information.

Possible Reasons for Resistance to Seeking Help

Seeking help after experiencing violence or trauma can be difficult. The best way to help a friend, colleague or family member, is to acknowledge the difficulty and gently encourage that they seek counseling or other services. While it may seem like an effective strategy, issuing an ultimatum can actually further traumatize a victim due to a perceived continuation of the loss of control. These are some of the most common reasons people avoid seeking help:

  • Fear of judgment
  • Fear of retaliation by the abuser and/or family/friends
  • Not knowing what to expect from the legal system
  • Fear of not being believed
  • Maintaining a home/children/pets
  • Financial concerns
  • Religious beliefs
  • Cultural beliefs