Helping Your Family Member/Friend Following Incidents of Interpersonal Violence
Someone you know and care about has survived an act of interpersonal violence that has temporarily stripped all his/her personal power and left behind feelings of fear and helplessness. These are perfectly normal responses. It takes time and support to work through feelings associated with this type of trauma, but there are many ways you can help.
- Believe the victim’s account without question. Don’t blame him/her.
- Respect the victim’s right to feel fear. Fear doesn’t go away when the incident is over; it lingers and is very real.
- Be accepting of the victim’s strong feelings. Provide a feeling of warmth and safety. Tolerate mood changes. Be there. Listen.
- Listen without making judgments or giving advice. Try to understand what the victim is going through. Don’t criticize actions or feelings.
- Care about the victim’s well being. Focus on helping your friend/loved one without letting your own emotions about the event interfere. Seek counseling if you’re having difficulty dealing with your feelings.
- Take the survivor seriously. Pay attention. This will help validate the victim’s feelings and the need to work through them.
- Understand that recovery is a process of acceptance and healing that takes time, and it may be months or years before the victim feels fully recovered. One of the most important factors in the amount of time needed for recovery is the kind and extent of support the victim receives from others. Understand that work done with others in a support group, on the telephone or in individual counseling sessions (whether with a friend or a professional) is important to the healing process.
- Encourage the victim not to expect too much and to take it easy. This means you shouldn’t expect too much either.
- Stay close by as long as needed.
- Let your friend/loved one make decisions without pressure from you. Provide assistance in exploring all the options, but remember to respect his/her privacy and confidentiality. Who the victim tells about the incident must be his/her decision, including whether or not to report it to the police.
- Offer physical comfort and warmth if wanted, but never pressure him/her to have sex.