Key Phrases to Support Sexual Assault Survivors during #SAAM2023

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Ways to Support Survivors During Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2023

Ways to Support Survivors During Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2023

Apr 4, 2023

Since 2001, Sexual Assault Awareness Month has been nationally observed, with initiatives around the country being undertaken in an effort to help spread awareness, promote sexual violence prevention, and encourage survivors and advocates to take action.

Last year, Dordulian Law Group compiled a list of nine recommendations for how to be a supportive ally to a sexual assault survivor you care about. Those recommendations included:

  1. Believe: One of the primary reasons sexual assault survivors are hesitant to come forward is the unknown. Of late, societal norms have thankfully shifted, with the tendency being to believe survivors. But in the past, that was certainly not the case. In fact, prior to the #MeToo Movement gaining traction, the norm was, in many cases, to disregard or minimize reports of sexual assault – whether against an individual, an entity like the Catholic Church or Boy Scouts of America, and even in the workplace. As noted above, the vast majority of sexual assault reports are credible. By believing survivors, we can help ensure more perpetrators are brought to justice.
  2. Listen: As DLG’s founder and president, Sam Dordulian, noted for a recent interview with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), simply listening to sexual assault survivors who have the courage to come forward is essential.” It may sound cliché, but I’ve seen it since I was a sex crimes prosecutor and especially now as a civil attorney for sexual assault survivors – simply not having someone to talk to about the crime often means a survivor doesn’t feel as if they can come forward,” Dordulian said. “That’s why one of the first questions our intake specialists ask when a potential survivor client contacts our office is: ‘Who do you have in your life to support you through this process?'” “Unfortunately, the answer is often ‘no one.’ At DLG, we created a SAJE Team within our Sex Crimes Division. SAJE stands for Sexual Assault Justice Experts, and three of our team members – a clinical therapist and two victim advocates – are primarily available to listen to (and support) survivors,” Dordulian added.

    “Whether we want to accept the fact or not, sexual assault and abuse affects everyone – it doesn’t matter how much money you have, your ethnicity or religion, where you live, etc. If it’s not happening to you, I can almost guarantee that you know someone or are related to someone who has experienced some form of sexual abuse. In over 20 years of working in this field, I’ve come to realize that sexual violence is blind. And although you may not be aware of it, we’re all connected to it in some way. And that means we should all listen to survivors. And by listening, we become educated to the fact that this is something that affects all of us, and then the stigma is shattered, which is so critical. That stigma has definitely improved in recent years, but we have a long way to go in removing it fully so that more survivors feel comfortable coming forward. I think if we listened to survivors, they’d be much more inclined to do just that when they’re ready,” Dordulian said to RAINN.

    1. Provide Unconditional Support (Don’t Minimize): As we’ve noted in recent blog posts, sexual consent cannot be given while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One of the worst mistakes an ally can make is minimizing a traumatic event like sexual assault, regardless of what the specific circumstances entailed.
    2. Be Patient: It can be harrowing to revisit a traumatic experience like sexual assault. Hence, let the survivor tell his or her story at his or her own pace.
    3. Don’t Shift the Focus: While it may seem like it goes without saying, if someone is confiding in you regarding a sexual assault, it has everything to do with the survivor (and nothing to do with you). Hence, do not shift the focus or try to make the situation about anything other than the health, safety, and overall well-being of the survivor.
    4. Don’t Give Unsolicited Advice: “Shut up and listen” is an appropriate adage when attempting to be a supportive ally. If a survivor doesn’t ask for your advice specifically, it’s probably best to simply listen and offer support. Moreover, offering advice on what should (or shouldn’t) have been done to purportedly prevent the sexual assault from occurring in the first place is never advisable. Why? Because sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor.
    5. Don’t Ask Invasive Questions: While this may seem like a repetitive suggestion given Tip #2 (to listen), it still deserves mentioning. Asking invasive questions may cause a survivor to withdraw and even recant a report that might deserve to be investigated by law enforcement.
    6. Don’t Make Assumptions: If you weren’t there and didn’t experience the sexual assault first-hand, you have no right to make assumptions.
    7. Don’t Pressure a Survivor to Report the Incident: As stated previously, coming forward to report a sexual assault can be extremely painful and stressful for survivors.

      Accordingly, if someone is taking the step of actually confiding in you, don’t pressure him or her to make an official report or file a lawsuit. In many cases, sexual assault survivors need months or even years before they feel comfortable coming forward with any kind of official report (if ever). That’s one of many reasons for California’s extension on the sexual assault civil statute of limitations and removal of the criminal statute of limitations. Survivors will report an incident if and when they are ready. Until then, just offering support can be sage advice.

      For Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2023, we’ve compiled some important phrases to say to survivors – courtesy of The Army of Survivors, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization whose work includes a range of important initiatives such as working to create and disseminate inclusive, diverse, and trauma-informed support related to sexual abuse in sport to athlete survivors, and taking steps to change laws that can better protect athletes and young adults. In addition, The Army of Survivors works tirelessly to bring awareness, accountability, and transparency to sexual violence against athletes.

    Some of The Army of Survivors’ work includes:

    • Creating resource materials for athlete survivors, secondary survivors, allies, and community specific to the abuse in sport context
    • Creating a network and collaborate with athlete survivors nationally and globally
    • Coordinating and collaborating with allied agencies and organizations to create resources
    • Hosting Survivor Speak Outs and networking events for athletes
    • Aggregating existing resources for survivors of sexual violence within sports

    They also provide technical assistance to many national and international companies and institutions including FIFA, National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), World Players Association, International Olympic Committee (IOC), and Apple.

    Let’s take look at the phrases to say to help support survivors as provided by The Army of Survivors.

    Phrases to Say to Survivors

    The following phrases have been identified by The Army of Survivors to potentially be used upon disclosure of an assault and throughout a survivor’s healing journey:

    • I’m sorry this happened to you.
    • Thank you for telling me and trusting me.
    • This was not your fault.
    • You are not to blame.
    • I believe you.
    • I will support you no matter what.
    • How can I help you?

    Phrases to Say to Survivors
    Additionally, The Army of Survivors notes through its Instagram page that sexual abuse trauma can impact anyone at any age. Moreover, trauma that was experienced at a young age can still affect a survivor years after the incident occurred – even as an adult.

    Actions You Can Take to Help Support a Survivor in Your Life

    The Army of Survivors also offers some extremely useful information for how friends, relatives, and advocates can support sexual assault survivors through action. Their recommended tips include:

    • Offer to help find resources if the survivor is interested (such as a trauma-informed therapist, hotlines, or information on hot to report an assault).
    • Check-in with the survivor periodically – even with a simple/quick text saying, “I wanted to see how you are doing. I’m thinking of you!” Such messages can “go a long way,” as The Army of Survivors notes.
    • Be sure to give the survivor space to feel their feelings. Let them know it’s “acceptable to laugh, cry, scream, or simply be silent,” according to The Army of Survivors.

    More Information on The Army of Survivors

    To learn more about the Army of Survivors and provide support for this outstanding nonprofit organization, please visit their website at You can make a tax-deductible donation, get involved at the community level, and participate in programs to help support survivors of sexual assault and abuse.

    Shield Self-Defense Classes for Women and Girls Available During #SAAM 2023

    A Los Angeles-area organization – Shield: Women’s Self Defense – is currently offering self-defense classes for local women, teens, and girls ages nine and above. The classes are aimed at helping women and girls adopt ways to defend themselves from a potential sexual predator. Shield offers private lessons, small classes, and corporate self-defense workshops for Angelenos and those in the surrounding areas. For more information, please visit the company’s website at

    Filing a Sexual Assault Lawsuit for Damages Against a Perpetrator

    Last year, California passed a new sexual assault law known as Assembly Bill 2777 (AB 2777). AB 2777 allows any adult survivor of sexual assault the opportunity to file a civil claim for financial compensation with Dordulian Law Group (DLG) – without being barred by the statute of limitations.

    AB 2777 opens a three-year window for any sexual assault or other type of sex crime which occurred on or after January 1, 2009. Accordingly, from now until December 31, 2026, all adult survivors of California sexual assault may file claims with the experienced team of sex crimes lawyers at DLG.

    A sexual assault civil lawsuit can be means of helping survivors obtain the justice they deserve while also recovering various financial damages:

    • Pain and suffering
    • Emotional distress/psychological harm
    • Counseling and therapy expenses (past and future)
    • Related medical care costs (past and future)
    • Punitive damages
    • Lost wages and/or diminished future earning capacity
    • Reduced quality of life
    • Prescription drug costs (past and future)

    Survivors of sexual assault have rights as well as options when it comes to pursuing justice for a past crime. Filing a sexual assault civil claim with DLG’s proven attorneys can be a preferred avenue which allows survivors to get justice on their own terms while also receiving compensation for the harm suffered.

    Contact DLG’s Sexual Assault Lawyers to Discuss Your Case Freely and Confidentially

    Contact a DLG sexual assault attorney today for a free and confidential consultation at 866-GO-SEE-SAM. Sam Dordulian created DLG to be a different kind of law firm that specializes in supporting survivors throughout every step of the litigation process while also fighting tirelessly to secure justice on their behalf. As a member of RAINN’s National Leadership Council and a former sex crimes prosecutor in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Dordulian offers survivors like you peace of mind through an unparalleled level of experience, commitment, and proven results.

    Dordulian and his team of Los Angeles, California, sexual assault lawyers have helped survivors secure countless multi-million dollar sex crime settlements. Some of our recent case victories include:

    • A $2,250,000.00 settlement for a survivor raped by a rideshare driver
    • A confidential multi-million dollar settlement for a client who was raped by a man she met on a ‘Sugar Daddy’ website
    • A $2,000,000.00 child sexual abuse settlement under California AB 218
    • A confidential maximum financial settlement for a women assaulted by an employer – although the incident involved minimal contact, our attorneys were able to secure the damages award under the eggshell plaintiff rule

    Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

    We will fight aggressively to help you obtain the justice and maximum financial compensation you deserve for your sexual assault claim.

    Contact us today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM to take the first step toward obtaining justice for your sexual assault case.

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