Friday — November 11, 2022
Supporting Survivors 101
by: Cesar J Segura
Working in Victim Advocacy, we at the Cahuilla Consortium know that sexual violence, domestic/intimate partner violence, elder abuse, etc., can happen to anyone. Often, we see that a survivor and abuser are in some relationship (romantic or not). We frequently get asked how family members and friends can support a survivor in their journey to reclaim their lives. Though each survivor’s journey is different, we have provided some information on how to support a survivor. Through this blog, we will differentiate between material and emotional support types.
1. Provide resources to the survivors in your life. These resources can include (but are not limited to) legal resources, victim advocacy resources, therapy, medical services, and/or information on their legal rights, such as Marsy’s Law.
2. If available, assist (or help identify others or organizations) to help with basic necessities such as food, housing, child care, and healthcare.
3. If agreed upon, look into assisting in documenting the abuse in their life. This documentation can include pictures, dates of abuse, and a collection of any police reports (if applicable). However, DO NOT share this information with others unless the survivor explicitly gives permission.
4. Abuse is often ongoing in a relationship and is not generally isolated to one incident. If safe to do so, consider storing a “go bag” of important items/documents in case a survivor needs to make a quick escape from their abuser. This bag should include important items like identification, medications, and irreplaceable items such as important photos. Remember, tangible items CAN BE REPLACED!
5. It is crucial when working with a survivor to acknowledge how difficult it may be if they are leaving their abuser. It is also very important not to judge a survivor for any decisions they have made.
6. Remember, you are to serve as a support. You are not there to save or rescue a survivor. Survivors can still make their own decisions and ultimately have control over their futures (even if this means returning to their abuser or doing something you may disagree with).
7. Though this may be difficult, depending on your relationship with a survivor, do not speak negatively about their abusive partner. Survivors in intimate relationships with their abusers often still have positive feelings toward their abusers. Speaking negatively regarding an abuser can isolate a survivor, and they may not wish to continue receiving help from you. Allow the survivor to grieve the loss of their relationship because though unhealthy, they are losing someone they love and need to be supported through the grief process.
As previously mentioned, no two incidents of violence are the same. How you support a survivor can change or vary depending on their specific victimization. But what is important, no matter the victimization is that survivors know they have a solid support system. At the end of the day, we must serve as support for a survivor no matter their unique situation, as survivors with no support system often see no way out of the power and control cycle.