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Gender Violence: for Friends & Family

for Friends & Family

Supporting a Survivor

Sexual and gender-based violence can be experienced by anyone. Parents, guardians, and other loved ones find it very difficult to hear that their student was victimized. It might be challenging to know what to say, how to act, and to how to best offer support. This section will help you understand and recognize common reactions to trauma among survivors of gender-based violence. Understanding these responses will help you to be supportive of someone’s healing process.

Note that people differ on what terms they prefer, victim or survivor, and we want to clarify our use here. We use the word “survivor” in this section to emphasize that a person has agency in their healing, and that it is a difficult and ongoing process. We use “victim” in the context of talking about criminal justice or someone who is actively experiencing abuse or violence.

Further information:

  • Our Helping a Friend publication is a good introduction for anyone supporting a friend or family member who has experienced gender-based violence. 
  • Our Family Member's Guide to Supporting Student Survivors provides information that is more specific to parents of a college student who has experienced gender-based violence. 
  • Our list of Tips for Partners of Survivors provides an introduction to the special issues faced by current partners of those who have experienced gender-based violence. 

It is important to remember that you should also practice “self-care” when supporting a friend or partner. The related resources page of this site outlines programs and offices on and off UVA's grounds that are not only helpful for survivors, but also for you as a supporter.