Apr 10

How To Respond When Someone Tells You They’ve Been Sexually Abused

As more survivors begin to come forward and share their stories, we need to be able to meet them in positive and supportive ways.

Have you ever been in a situation where someone shares a deeply emotional, vulnerable experience and you haven’t known how to respond? That it feels impossible to find the “right” words to say?

Witnessing anyone share about their pain can affect all of us, especially when it is someone who has been sexually assaulted. Not knowing what to say or how to say it is often what holds us back from being able to truly support the other person and what they are going through.

While it may seem overwhelming in the moment of a vulnerable conversation, there is a tremendous opportunity to bring support to the survivor in ways that are empowering, and a beautiful experience for you both.

Through my own healing journey and helping other survivors and their families, I have identified Four Keys Principles in having a positive experience when someone is telling you about their sexual abuse.

The 4 Key Principles are:

  1. How to respond
  2. Notice yourself
  3. Power of listening
  4. Safe communication

Below is a brief expansion of the first key principle.

Key Principle 1: how to respond

The following comes from Emily Nagoski, researcher and expert on women’s sexual wellbeing, healthy relationships, and the prevention of sexual violence and harassment. She is the award-winning author of Come as You Are.

Below are four sentences she offers to use.

  • “I believe you.”
  • “Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me.”
  • “I am sorry that happened to you.”
  • “I support you.”

A fifth one that I have adopted is: “What would feel most loving from me in this moment?”

These statements are beautiful to hear as a survivor. Many of us feel shame and embarrassment, and often times we agonize whether we decide to tell someone or not.

No matter how challenging a conversation can be, there is potential for it to be one that is beautiful, transformative, and healing.

Watch this powerful video and learn:

  • The in-depth explanation of the 4 Key Principles
  • The deeper explanation behind the 5 sentences to say when someone is sharing about their assault
  • Why wanting to fix or help is more harmful than helpful from a survivor’s perspective
  • 5 tips to create a supportive atmosphere for a sensitive conversation
  • Why it’s important to honor your needs as the listener
  • The “Hand on Heart” practice, my all-time favorite way to create safety and communication

Please feel free to share as much detail as you feel comfortable with. Your story may be just what someone else needs to have a major breakthrough in their life. We are all on this journey together.

Important: please share your thoughts and ideas directly in the comments below and practice kindness. We are all in this journey together and it takes great courage to share your story. Links to other posts, videos, etc. may be removed.

I am honored you are here. Thank you so much for watching,

sharing, and inspiring our community with your experiences and wisdom. It matters and it makes more of a difference than you know.

With love,  


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