Tips for Interviewing Survivors of Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is something covered in the news and media often. As journalists continue to report on these crimes and behaviors in our communities, we want to provide some tips for a better understanding of how to interview survivors of sexual violence. A thoughtful approach to an interview will not only help educate the general public, but also can help in the healing of survivors of sexual violence here in New Mexico.


Ensure Safety of the Survivor

One of the most important things you can do as a journalist for a survivor of sexual violence is allow them to select the time and place of an interview. As journalists, there are many deadlines that have to be met with a short turn around. But allowing the survivor to choose the time and place can empower them and will make them feel much more comfortable during the interview as well. It also creates a space in which they can feel safe enough to be vulnerable.


Inconsistencies are Normal

In conducting the interview, journalists sometimes find that the survivor might have inconsistencies in their story. For people who experience trauma, this is normal because of how the nervous system stores memories related to trauma and sexual violence. But being mindful of this and understanding has helped journalists in reporting sexual violence in a way that is not only respectful to the survivor, but also healing. 


Body Language is Very Important

As journalists with deadlines, it can be easy to feel rushed or distracted in meeting your deadline or making sure you aren't missing a developing story. However, this communicates to the survivor that their story is not important and can make a survivor much less likely to continue.


Self-Blame & Guilt are Real

Sometimes, survivors might display or say things that sound like they are blaming themselves or feel guilty for being sexually assaulted. As journalists, it is important to understand that these statements are one way in which survivors are processing their assault. It is also a moment to reflect on how society places blame on survivors for their assault rather than perpetrators and offenders.


Transparency is Key

One way we encourage our survivors to feel empowered after their assault is by being as clear and transparent with them about our services as possible. As journalists, by being clear and transparent about your intentions behind a given story will not only help the survivor understand where you are coming from, but also they will feel more empowered and included with how their voice will be heard in the community. 



Other Related Topics:

Statistics of Sexual Violence  Featured News Stories Understanding Sexual Violence


For more questions regarding reporting on sexual violence or the Rape Crisis Center of Central New Mexico, please contact our Executive Director, Jim Harvey, at 505-266-7712 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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