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Tips on Becoming an Effective Sexual Assault Advocate!

Acts of sexual violence are traumatizing and can impact many aspects of a survivor's life. Survivors are entitled in knowing their rights and available options to make the best choice for themselves. Sexual assault advocates can provide emotional support, information, advocacy, and referrals to survivors.

Tips on Effective Advocacy

Advocacy is speaking and acting for change or justice on behalf of oneself or another person or cause. Sexual assault advocacy may involve taking a hotline call, meeting someone at the hospital for a forensic exam, explaining the legal process, or assisting survivors with finding safe housing or transportation referrals.

Knowing your role and specific duties as an advocate:

  • Listen & Believe

  • Answer crisis-line calls

  • Provide information on reporting an assault

  • Support survivors in their decision on whether or not to report

  • Medical/Legal Accompaniment

  • Work to ensure survivor's anonymity

  • Make referrals as appropriate to meet survivor's needs

Crisis Intervention as an Advocate:

Crisis Intervention refers to the methods used to offer immediate, short-term help to individuals who experience an event that produces emotional, mental, physical, and behavioral distress or problems.

When in crisis, a survivor’s capacity to help themselves is often impaired. This is why an advocates role is important in helping survivors acknowledge their strengths and access resources.


A strong advocacy relationship starts with good communication.

The Foundation of Effective Communication: The Four Keys

  • Listening: Carefully listening to what the speaker is saying without judgment or evaluation. Listening to both the content of the message as well as the feelings that are being expressed.

  • Paraphrasing: Stating back, in your own words, what you understood the other person to say.

  • Affirming: Statements that recognize and validate a person’s strengths and acknowledge that the person has been harmed. To help build the person’s confidence in their ability to persist.

  • Open-ended vs. Closed-ended: Before you ask a question, ask yourself what information you need to get. Do not ask questions based on your interest; ask questions that can not be answered by a simple "yes" or "no" that will not help you provide adequate services.


Sexual assault is a loss of control over one’s body and the ability to choose with whom to be sexual. Confidentiality gives the survivor control over who they want to tell and makes the disclosure safe.

  • It is extremely important that the survivor be able to retain control after the assault to the greatest extent possible.

  • Maintaining confidentiality is one way to help the survivor regain control over who does and does not know that the rape occurred.

Mastering these techniques will help build on your skills as an advocate and successfully provide survivors with appropriate and adequate resources.

The Center for Sexual Assault Survivors is committed to providing efficient advocacy to all survivors of sexual violence. The Center's Volunteer Program allows community members to become trained advocates, support survivors, and learn more about victim advocacy. We cannot do this important work without our amazing volunteers' support. Learn more about our volunteer program and apply today!

Volunteer Application Form:

If you or someone you care for is a survivor of sexual violence, we are here for you, and you are not alone. If you would like additional resources for healing from sexual violence, please reach out to us at our 24-hour crisis hotline: 757-260-5260.

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Because Sexual Assault Affects us All

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