Supporting Survivors


What are ways families can encourage their loved ones to report gender-based violence?


Thank you for asking this question. The first thing we want to emphasize is that whether or not your loved one chooses to report their gender-based violence experience is ultimately up to them.  It is essential to respect their autonomy, recognizing that forcing them to report may enhance their distress. Supporting survivors in their decision-making, providing non-coercive assistance, and fostering environments of trust and empowerment are vital to ensure you continue to be a supportive healing presence that they know they can turn to going forward.

Survivors of gender-based violence may choose not to report their experiences for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to having fears of retaliation, concerns about privacy, mistrust in the legal system, experiences of societal stigma, or fears of potential re-traumatization during legal proceedings. To learn more about why some survivors may not want to report, see this response we provided to a similar question. 

If you want to support their decision-making, while encouraging them about the benefits of reporting, fostering open communication is crucial. Initiating conversations about consent, healthy relationships, and the importance of bodily autonomy can create a foundation for survivors to feel heard and supported. You may also want to explore with them why they do not want to report. If it seems to be related to feelings of shame or self-blame, encouraging them to understand that the responsibility lies with the perpetrator and not themselves can be instrumental. Providing information on available support services, both within and outside the formal reporting system, allows survivors to make informed decisions about their healing journey. Additionally, respecting their pace and choices while expressing your ongoing support underscores the importance of their agency in the recovery process. 

You also may want to consider educating yourself on the reporting process, dynamics of gender-based violence, available support services, and the legal implications of reporting. This information can help you understand the intricacies of the criminal-legal system, why survivors may not want to report, and alternative pathways to justice and healing. Being armed with information can be helpful as the loved one in your life considers their options and what they want to do for next steps. This information should not be forced upon them, but can be provided to them if they feel they need additional information to inform their decision. Again, your job is to present accurate information, not to try to persuade them to make a decision they are not ready to make. 

No matter what the survivor in your life decides, be sure to respond with  non-judgmental support. Responding empathetically to survivors, avoiding victim-blaming, and acknowledging the difficulty of reporting can create a supportive environment for them to heal within. Even if they do not choose to report, you can still encourage them to connect with other potential healing-focused resources. Respect their autonomy and listen to the rationale behind their decision-making. No matter what they choose to do, continue to be a resource to them, even if you do not agree with the decision they are making, because ultimately, the choice is theirs to make. 

Supporting loved ones who experienced gender-based violence is hard. Violence can cause ripple effects within families and communities. Make sure you are also receiving the support you need from those around you as you make sense of what happened to your loved one. Take care of yourself so that you can emotionally "show up" for the loved one healing in your life.

You are not alone. We appreciate your efforts to support your loved one during this challenging time. We are here for you. 

Safety Exit