I Believe You; How to Support a Loved One (or anyone you know) Who Has Experienced Trauma.


The fact of the matter is, trauma is common. 70% of adults have experienced some type of trauma at least once in their lives. In the United States:

Suicide is the leading cause of death

A woman is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds

1 in 2 women experience sexual violence in their lifetime

1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner

38-70% of children witness community violence

1 in 6 children have been abused or neglected

It is extremely difficult for an individual to disclose an experienced trauma. If a friend or family member opens up to YOU that means that they feel safe and are in the healing process. That is so powerful! While this may be hard for you to hear and accept, we want to make sure that we don’t cause any more harm and are equipped with the appropriate ways to respond (and not respond).

Listen Without Judgement

You may not know what to say (and that’s OK). You may want to do something for them. You may want to fill the silence. I get it, but just know: No matter how hard you try or what you do, you can’t fix someone’s trauma. Instead of trying to fix it, be present and listen with empathy.

This looks like:

Letting them speak without interruption

Nodding along

Providing physical touch if it’s appropriate (holding their hand, placing a hand on their shoulder, etc).


Communicating that you believe your friend or family member is extremely powerful. Furthermore, you can validate their experience and acknowledge that what has happened to them is terrible.

This sounds like:

“I believe you”

“This is a truly horrible thing that has happened. I can see you’re in an incredible amount of pain.”

Don’t Make It About You

You are allowed to have your own feelings about what you’re hearing and what your friend or family member is going through, but this doesn’t mean you need to place them onto the victim.

This looks like:

Letting them have their own emotions .

If your friend needs space, don’t take it personally.

If your friend is discussing the event, don’t relate it to something you’ve been through or what you would do in their situation.

Avoid Asking Unnecessary Questions

Trauma is overwhelming and difficult to process. Try to minimize your questions in general and eliminate questions that may place blame onto the victim or signify that you may not believe them.

This sounds like:

Are you safe now?

Do you need to go to the hospital/police station, and would you like me to go with you?

Do you need help telling anyone else?

What do you need right now?

*If your friend or family member is a victim of sexual assault or rape, you can absolutely ask them if they’d like to report the crime and/or need medical attention. However, respect their response! Know that: Trauma takes a long time to process and work through, sexual assault can feel embarrassing and humiliating, and unfortunately our system is still not set up to make people feel safe to report the event.

Let Them Know It Wasn’t Their Fault

Being a victim of sexual assault, rape, abuse, violence, or complex trauma is never the victims fault. Ever.

This sounds like:

“What happened wasn’t your fault”

“You did nothing to deserve this”

“You did nothing wrong”

Thank Them

It is an honor that they confided in you. Let them know that you feel this way. You can say something that recognizes the tremendous pain and fear that can come at the very idea of sharing this.

This sounds like:

“Thank you so much for trusting me with your story”

“I’m honored that you would share this with me, and I really want to be there for you.”

Keep Checking In

Follow up. Again. And again. And again. You don’t need to bring up the assault, just check in with them so they know it wasn’t and isn’t “too much” for you to handle.

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