Creating the Extraordinary Student Experience

Co-Survivor Resources

This page offers information for friends or family members of victims/survivors, also known as secondary survivors or co-survivors. Thank you for caring and seeking help!


What do I say?

It can be hard to know what to do to help a friend or family member who is a victim/survivor of sexual violence.


What to say to a victim/survivor:

  • I'm sorry this happened to you
  • It wasn't your fault
  • You survived; obviously you did the right things
  • Thank you for telling me
  • I'm here if you want to talk
  • Can I do anything for you?


What NEVER to say to a victim/survivor:

  • It was your fault.
  • You could have avoided it had you __________
  • It's been so long! Get over it!
  • You wanted it / You were asking for it.
  • It's not that big of deal; it happens to lots of people.
  • I don't believe you.



What should I do (and not do)?


  • Respect the victim/survivor enough not to pity them.
  • Comfort them. Make the environment comfortable.
  • Allow them to talk as much or as little as they need.
  • Encourage the victim/survivor to seek medical treatment, counseling and/or post-trauma services.
  • Find your own support.  As a secondary survivor, you are also affected.  If you would like to speak with someone on campus about being a secondary survivor, contact the Sexual Violence Support Coordinator at or Counseling and Consultation Service
  • Be willing to say nothing. If you don't know what to say, that's okay. The most powerful statement a friend can make is by simply being there, not trying to fix everything or pretending it's okay. Silence often says more than words.


  • Assume they do/don't want to be touched. Some people can't stand a hug at this point. Others can't make it without one.
  • Try to solve all of their problems for them. They have had their control taken away. Try to avoid doing that again.
  • Assume you know how the victim/survivor feels. Making statements such as "it's ok" or "you're going to be fine" may serve to minimize the victim's/survivor's feelings and downplay the seriousness of the violence.
  • Allow myths to affect how you perceive the survivor. Review myths vs. facts about sexual violence, and examine your own attitudes and feelings about sexual violence.