Responding to Victims/Survivors

Disclosing abuse to someone is such a vulnerable time for victims, and often has a huge influence on the trajectory of a victim’s healing. During this time its important for the victim to know that they are believed and that they have someone trusted to talk to. Here are some dos and don’ts.


  • Let the survivor know that you believe them. And if they are blaming themselves, reassure them that it’s not their fault.
  • Offer support in whatever way they may need that’s within their capacity. Maybe it’s childcare, food, or a place to stay.
  • Be there for them. Don’t make your support conditional (i.e. “I’ll only be here for you if you break up with them”)
  • Kind words and sympathy are often the biggest things someone needs at this time.
  • You can also provide a “warm handoff”  and call domestic violence resources with your friend or call them yourself.
  • Realize that it’s your friend’s decisions to make. It’s hard to stand on the sidelines but resist the urge to force your friend out of the relationship. Victims/survivors usually need to make these decisions for themselves.
  • Take care of yourself and seek support for yourself.
  • Call My Sister’s House – we can help you and your friend through the next steps and figure out what options are available.


  • Pry for more information than the survivor is willing to disclose. Let them tell their own story on their own time.
  • Force or pressure them to make decisions. Don’t force them to go to the police. But you can ask whether they’re interested in reporting.
  • Ask questions like “Why didn’t you just leave?” “What made them do that to you?”
  • Abandon your friend. Abusers try isolate victims by driving wedges in between the victim and the victim’s support network.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please call My Sister’s House at 916-428-3271.

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