How to support a Colleague After Sexual Violence? (Learn how to take action, report and get support when sexual violence happens to you or a colleague in the workplace) Part 2

Posted November 29, 2020 from Philippines
photo credit Copyright 2019 Cornerstone OnDemand

The first people survivors interact with after sexual violence can greatly impact their recovery process.

Knowing how to respond, what to say, and how to support friends or colleagues who have experienced sexual violence is essential to helping them on their path to recovery.

Ways to Support Survivors of Sexual Violence

  • Be present.
  • Listen actively and be engaged.
  • Give them space to make their own decisions. Do not make decisions for them.
  • Encourage them to express negative and difficult feelings that can help empower them.
  • Accompany them, if they wish, during difficult moments of the response (medical care and psychosocial care appointments, making reports, consulting with lawyers, attending court).
  • Maintain privacy and confidentiality about their information and experience.
  • Be trustworthy.
  • Show empathy, not sympathy.

What to Say to Survivors of Sexual Violence

  • How can I help you?
  • What do you need in this moment?
  • Do you want to take action? And how?
  • Everything you are feeling right now is normal.
  • You have a right to feel this way.
  • This is not your fault.

What Not to Say to Survivors of Sexual Violence

  • Question their version of the events.
  • Suggest that they might be lying or that the perpetrator is too nice to have done this type of act.
  • Suggest that this is a misunderstanding that could be cleared up by talking to the perpetrator.
  • Tell them that they are to blame for the experience.
  • Tell them to get over their feelings or deal with things.
  • Decide what actions and decisions they should take.
  • Perpetuate victim-blaming attitudes or rape myths.
  • Give false hope about actions or outcomes.

Being a Good Advocate for Survivors of Sexual Violence - Being a good advocate for survivors of sexual violence in the workplace can also mean helping the survivor push for change if they are not fully able to articulate what they need. This could mean helping a survivor:

  • Get a specific type of support.
  • Push for organizational and cultural change.
  • Shift the conversation from what a survivor might have done to end up in a situation (victim-blaming) to how the workplace environment is a contributing factor that allowed the act to occur.

Protecting the survivor also means protecting yourself - The survivor is experiencing a trauma, but you might also experience vicarious trauma as you hear about the traumatic event. Make sure that you have access to support services, so that you can continue to be a good advocate and not suffer from lasting damage or effects while supporting a colleague.

Being a Good Advocate Means Being a Good Bystander - Being a good advocate means that you are an active bystander who will intervene and help prevent sexual violence in the workplace.

Follow these steps on how to be a good bystander:

  1. Say something. If you see something happening in your office, social circle, or in the field, say something. For example, if you see a colleague acting strangely at a party or overly intoxicated, help get him or her to a safe location.
  2. Take action. If it is safe to intervene in a situation that is actively happening, then do so.
  3. Offer help. Ask friends and colleagues if they need help or an escort out of a situation.
  4. Make a report. Report things you have witnessed through reporting chains. This can help provide more evidence when a survivor is ready to come forward, or give them the courage to speak up.
  5. Promote safety at work. Create an environment that helps prevent unsafe actions and behaviors from happening in the first place.
  6. Empower others to be bystanders. Your actions can help encourage other colleagues to become bystanders. This makes everyone safer.

This resource provides guidance for survivors and their colleagues in the aftermath of sexual violence occurring in the workplace.



Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation, © Copyright 2019 Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation



This story was submitted in response to Sharing Solutions: Ending GBV.

Comments 11

Log in or register to post comments
Jill Langhus
Nov 30, 2020
Nov 30, 2020

Hi Mae Ann,

These are great tips, too. Quite often we experience the opposite. Thanks for sharing.

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 30, 2020
Nov 30, 2020

Dear Maeann,
So often women wanting to help are unsure of what to say (and not say). This is such a thorough and helpful piece with such down to earth and important information. I hope that you put these three pieces together into a book.

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Dec 03, 2020
Dec 03, 2020

Hello, Mae Ann,

Thank you for sharing these valuable steps on how to help those who are victims of violence. With GBV on the rise, we all need to train ourselves on how to provide support. Keep it up!

Dec 04, 2020
Dec 04, 2020

Dear Maeann,

Insightful, thank you for sharing!

I love the steps on how to be a good bystander.


Dec 05, 2020
Dec 05, 2020

Hi Adanna,

I also learned about this article. And yes, let us be a bystander.

Beth Lacey
Dec 16, 2020
Dec 16, 2020

This is very informative series, Maeann. Thanks

Dec 18, 2020
Dec 18, 2020

Thank you Beth, have a great day.

Paulina Nayra
Feb 19
Feb 19

This is very helpful Mae Ann. Thanks for sharing this.


Apr 11
Apr 11

youre welcome po Ate

Catherine De Freitas

Hello Maeann,
Thank you for sharing such pertinent information. It is so important for us to be equipped with the right tools in order to support our sisters.

Apr 11
Apr 11

Thank you Catherine for having time to read.