Below is a list of simple, direct questions you can use when working with survivors. These types of questions can help open the conversation and gain a better understanding of the needs of each individual you work with.
An important first step is to reflect on what information you need to know. Ask yourself, "do I need to know this to be helpful?" If the answer is 'no', don't ask the question. Second, avoid asking questions with "why". This is because "why" questions can sound or be perceived as accusatory or judgmental. There are other ways to frame questions to encourage conversation, as per the examples below.
When asking about a partner:
- Do you have a partner you like? How do they treat you? How do you know they like/care/respect you?
- Is your relationship the same as it was in the beginning? Does your partner check up on you?
- Are you being forced/pressured to do anything you don't want to do? What happens if you refuse?
- Do you worry your partner will tell your parents/family/friends what you’re doing?
- Have they threatened to send pictures/videos to your family/friends?
- Can you end the relationship if you wanted to? What would happen?
- Have you left before? How many times?
- Has marriage been proposed?
- Do you share hopes and dreams?
When asking about family:
- What is your relationship like with your family?
- Has your partner met your family? What do they think of your family?
- Have you met your partner’s family or friends?
- Have you ever felt pressure to help your family save money? How did you help?
- Does your family know about your employment?
When asking about employment and living situation:
- Do you have a job?
- Are you being paid? Do you get to keep your money?
- Are you in a personal or work relationship with a person who physically harms or threatens you?
- Are you being forced/pressured to do anything you don’t want to? What happens if you refuse?
- Have you been hurt while working on the job either by someone you work for or with?
- Can you leave your job or situation if you want?
- What are your aspirations?
- What are your working or living conditions like?
- Where do you sleep? Where do you eat?
When asking about safety:
- Are you fearful for your safety?
- Are you afraid to go home/to work?
- What would happen if you didn’t return to your worksite/residence this evening?
- Can you come and go as you please?
- Do you have a safe place to go?
- Has anyone threatened you or your family members?
- You seem in a hurry to leave. We're here to help you. What's making you feel anxious to leave right now?
For more information on how to engage with survivors, as well as communication strategies, read the Promising practices resource.