Tips for Providing Support
There is a lot you can do to help.
Sexual misconduct or relationship violence has a sweeping impact on the entire community. Even if you are not the survivor of sexual misconduct or relationship violence, there is a lot you can do to help. For friends, roommates, professors, advisers and others who know someone who has been impacted by these crimes, there are resources for you, too.
You may be the first or only person whom a survivor tells about their experience. Please understand that it was likely very hard for this person to confide in you, and they have chosen to speak with you because they trust you to some extent. Treat them respectfully and take their reports seriously; false reports of sexual misconduct or dating violence are extremely rare.
Listen to their story without judging them. Let them know that they can talk to you and receive your support and understanding. Provide information, not solutions.
Feelings of anxiety, fear, anger and depression are common emotions and reactions. Sexual assault and relationship violence are NEVER the fault of the survivor. Only the perpetrator of the crime is to blame.
The survivor must ultimately be comfortable with whatever they choose to do to respond, but you can encourage them to report what has happened and/or seek medical attention. However, not all survivors are ready to take that step right away; be patient.
Respect Their Privacy
Do not share with others what has been shared with you, unless you are given permission from the survivor, you have mandatory reporting obligations or there is an immediate safety or health concern. Do NOT confront the alleged perpetrator; your safety is also important.
Discuss Options for Safety
One of the first questions you should ask survivors is whether they have any immediate concerns for their safety. Survivors of sexual misconduct and relationship violence should not have their safety compromised. If a situation is ongoing, discuss with the survivor their options, including reporting to police, requesting no-contact orders from the Office of Campus Life, seeking restraining orders from a local court or relocating residence and/or classes. Be careful not to force action on a survivor, though. Ask them what would make them feel safe and how you can help them achieve that goal.
What to Say
Sometimes it may be hard finding the rights words to comfort a survivor. Try these suggestions:
- This isn’t your fault.
- I’m so sorry that this happened to you.
- I believe what you are telling me.
- Thank you for trusting me with this information.
- You are in charge of what happens next.
- Let’s focus first on you and your health and safety. Do you want to see a doctor? Do you feel safe?
- You are not alone. Help is available.
- What can I do to help?