Resources on How to #HEALTogether

#HEALTogether encourages the survivor community and their loved ones to come together in their healing from sexual violence and the dangers online. Leaning on each other during times of hardship, and during times of triumph, can provide individuals a sense of safety and belonging while healing from trauma. Let’s learn how to heal together.

Have resources at the ready.

It’s important to have local and national resources on hand for survivors and their loved ones when providing support in times of need. National resources like the National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7, confidential, and free at 800.656.HOPE and

Check out RAINN’s national resources for sexual assault survivors and their loved ones. In addition, organizations in your local community can also provide direct support which can include advocacy, local hotlines, professional mental health therapists, resource centers, and legal support.

Educate yourself to be trauma-informed.

Preparing yourself to be trauma-informed when supporting a survivor and their loved ones is important. Being trauma-informed includes giving a survivor space and time to share at their own pace. Listen, acknowledge, and accept their experience(s) while recognizing that survivors and their loved ones require an individualized approach. Telling a survivor you are there for them when they are ready to disclose is important. Allow their healing process to take as long as they need. Respond with care, empathy, and sensitivity. Don't blame or criticize their reactions and don’t dismiss their experiences and feelings. When responding to their experience, only give advice when asked and support their decisions of what they feel is best for them at the time.

Being trauma-informed includes:

  • Understanding what trauma is and types of trauma
  • Understanding the impacts of trauma
  • Recognizing the signs, symptoms, and effects of trauma
  • Responding to and supporting the needs of you and your child in a way that decreases further trauma

Examples of trauma-informed responses include:

  • “Thank you for sharing your experience with me.”
  • “I believe you.”
  • “I’m sorry this happened to you.”
  • “I am here for you.”
  • “It is not your fault.”
  • “I believe you.”

Examples of responses that are not trauma-informed:

  • Don’t ask if they’re absolutely sure it happened. This will likely make them feel that you do not believe them.
  • Don’t say that what they’ve described doesn’t sound like sexual assault to you, or that it “isn’t that bad.” Don’t ask for details about what happened––such as if they knew the perpetrator, what they were wearing, if they had anything to drink, etc. Those details don’t matter right now; what matters is making sure that the survivor feels supported. Questions about the details can make someone feel blamed for what happened to them.
  • Don’t tell them that they should have gotten over it by now. There is no timeline for healing, and each survivor’s journey is different.
  • Don’t insist that they have to do certain things––such as report to police, get a sexual assault forensic exam, or disclose to others. It is fine to let someone know that these options exist and to ask them if they are interested in pursuing any of them, but you should never pressure a survivor or attempt to control their healing process. Forcing the situation can make a survivor feel that control over their choices is being taken away, which may be retraumatizing after having experienced a lack of control over their body and physical safety during sexual assault.

Advocate for Survivors.

In the aftermath of experiencing a traumatic event, survivors often navigate how to rebuild their lives. During this journey, advocating for survivors is critical in their recovery. Creating safe and supportive spaces for survivors means building trust and providing empathy and compassion. It also means keeping experiences in confidentiality while offering affirming, caring, and non-judgemental support. There are many unique ways to advocate for survivors while always prioritizing a survivor's choice and decision making in their healing from sexual violence.

There are a few ways that you can advocate for a survivor below:

  • Get involved in local and national efforts to support survivors and end sexual violence.
  • Raising awareness on sexual violence in your community .
  • Working towards preventing sexual violence through educating yourself and educating your community.
  • Reach out to your local rape crisis center and inquire about volunteering as an advocate.
  • Engage in volunteer or career opportunities to answer telephone calls and chats with an anti-sexual violence organization to provide support to survivors during their healing journey.
  • Take part in campus and national initiatives like Take Back the Night, Denim Day, organizing art projects, marches, performances, and speaking events.

Listen to Survivor Voices

When someone listens to and believes a survivor, it can make a world of difference for them—helping to release them from feeling silent and alone. Coming forward about sexual assault and reaching out for help is already difficult, and may feel even more so now. That’s why it is more important than ever that we show empathy and kindness to one another by being prepared to support the survivors in your life who share their stories. When survivors share their story with you, respecting their experience and the diversity they bring is important. Use survivor-centered language and express compassion.

Below are some specific phrases RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline staff recommend to be supportive through a survivor’s healing process as you listen and respond to their experience.

  • “I believe you. / It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.” It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed. Leave any “why” questions or investigations to the experts—your job is to support this person. Be careful not to interpret calmness as a sign that the event did not occur—everyone responds to traumatic events differently. The best thing you can do is to believe them.
  • “It’s not your fault. / You didn’t do anything to deserve this.” Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.
  • “You are not alone. / I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.” Let the survivor know that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story if they are comfortable sharing it. Assess if there are people in their life they feel comfortable going to, and remind them that there are service providers who will be able to support them as they heal from the experience.
  • “I’m sorry this happened. / This shouldn’t have happened to you.” Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life. Phrases like “This must be really tough for you,” and, “I’m so glad you are sharing this with me,” help to communicate empathy.

When listening to survivors, also take care of yourself. It can be difficult to listen to survivor stories and to help those in need. Practicing self-care can help ease the stress that may come with helping others. Spend time with your own support system, such as loved ones or pets. Take time for the things you enjoy, such as photography, watching a funny movie, or running.