It’s okay to not have all the answers. You can assist the survivor in gaining access to resources, by connecting them to places like OSAPR, Title IX, or medical and legal services. Not having access to information perpetuates a power imbalance leaving the survivor vulnerable. Referrals give the survivor information about their options, which in turn empowers them to make decisions that are right for them. How and when the survivor decides to use these resources is entirely their decision. Much like there is no right way to feel, there is also no right answer about next steps. Think about working with the survivor as opposed to working on their behalf.
What can I do?
Offer to walk the survivor over to the office where they’re seeking support or call for information together. If the survivor prefers, you can simply provide a list of resources that include peer counseling groups, confidential advocacy, and administrative offices, so they can determine in their own time what option is best.
Sometimes it can be helpful to offer the survivor options within their own social spheres―friends, family members, significant others, or other people they feel safe confiding in. Referrals can also be offered in the form of coping mechanisms that have helped the survivor overcome challenges in the past. While not all coping mechanisms are healthy, it is important to assist survivors in navigating their choices without judgment. If you are concerned about how a survivor is choosing to cope, contact OSAPR or find a way to offer referrals to professional help.
A survivor may feel like they don’t know what to do, but with a little direction, we can empower them to feel confident in making the choices that are best for them.
What can I say?
Keep in mind that the following statements are suggestions, not scripts. It is important to find words that feel authentic to you. Listen to what the person has said and respond honestly, using the suggestions below to inform your response.
“I know of several resources that might be helpful. Would you like to hear about them?
“Who would you like to talk to?"
"Where would you like to go for help?”
“How are your (friends/family/partner) responding to what you’ve shared with them?”
“Who or what makes you feel safer/ emotionally supported?"
“Where do you feel the most comfortable?”
“Are there activities you’d like to try?”
“I’m wondering if X has helped you in the past?”
“What is comforting to you?”