How to Provide Support
1. If you are a Responsible Employee or Confidential Resource, understand your responsibilities and clarify your role with the survivor. For Responsible Employees, let the survivor know up front that you will need to report what you are told to the Title IX Coordinator.
2. Whether or not you are a Responsible Employee or a Confidential Resource, patiently listen, don’t judge, and allow the survivor to share what they want.
3. Suggest options and resources. Empower the survivor to make their own choices about what to do next, if anything.
- Address any immediate safety issues.
- Suggest medical treatment which will address concerns regarding possible injuries, pregnancy, and/or sexually transmitted infections or diseases. Medical care can also include the sexual assault forensic exam (SAFE) in which evidence is collected.
- Suggest emotional support.
- Explain the survivor’s options to report the incident to the police to initiate a criminal investigation and/or to the Title IX Office/OIE to initiate a University administrative process.
4. Understand and support common reactions. Validate feelings.
- Self-blame/Guilt: It’s never the survivor’s fault that they were sexually assaulted.
- Lack of focus: Acknowledge that this is a stressful time. Difficulty recalling events is a common reaction after experiencing a trauma.
- Denial: “I’m fine.” Continue to listen and offer support. Don’t push the person to confront feelings.
5. Satisfy your own reporting obligations, if any. If you are a Responsible Employee and/or Campus Safety Authority, or if the matter relates to child abuse or neglect, you have legal and/or University mandated reporting responsibilities.
Helpful Things to Say
- I am happy to just listen, or I can answer questions, or I can help you sort through some things. It’s up to you.
- When something painful happens, people shouldn’t have to carry it alone.
- No one deserves to be assaulted regardless of the circumstances.
- You have a right to all of your feelings.
- What would you like to do?
- Let me summarize what you’ve said so far and please tell me if I got it right.
- Thank you for telling me/calling me/trusting me. Let me know how I might be able to continue to support you.
Things to Avoid Saying
- Do not insist on action steps; guide the conversation to allow the survivor to determine next steps.
- Do not touch the survivor without permission; not everyone is a hugger.
- Do not offer shower, fresh clothes, food, or medicine (e.g. Advil or Band-Aids unless you are a medical professional).
- Do not disclose your own history of being a survivor; focus on the current support of the survivor.
- Avoid analyzing or diagnosing (you’re doing that because), shaming or blaming (what were you thinking), distracting (let’s talk about something more pleasant), or advising (you should do).
Seek Your Own Support
It can be difficult to help someone who has experienced trauma. Please remember to seek out a support person for yourself.