Someone may disclose they have experienced sexual misconduct in many ways. We want to provide some good information and tips for both the person who experienced the sexual misconduct but also the one receiving the information.
You may learn of an incident of sexual misconduct. Your response is very important and may determine whether the person who has experienced this chooses to tell anyone else or seek professional assistance.
The Title IX coordinator is also available to answer any questions that you may have regarding your rights and responsibilities.
Ensure the person is safe and if needed receives medical attention (e.g. SAFE Exam).
Explain options for reporting.
Provide information on confidential reporting:
Listen, but do not investigate.
Conduct your own investigation. Even the best intentions may exacerbate a situation or compromise an investigation.
Dictate what a person should do.
Blame the person.
Be the person’s only support.
The most important thing you can do when someone tells you they’ve experienced sexual violence is to listen and believe them. Let them take their time expressing their story. Do not share other stories of sexual violence. Focus on their story. Follow their lead on what they would like to share. When someone has experienced trauma they may have acted or remembered the incident in ways that don’t make sense to you. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
It’s not your job to get to the bottom of what happened. Remind your friend that they are not to blame.
Just because someone has confided in you, doesn’t mean they want other people to know what happened. It also doesn’t mean that they want to talk about it with you every time they see you. Let them know that you will keep what they shared between the two of you, and then honor that commitment.
When someone experiences sexual violence, their choice was taken away from them. To help someone heal, it’s important to support and empower others to make their own choices about what is best for them. Even if you feel you know what’s “best,” which can be frustrating, you need to let them heal at their own pace and make their own decisions. Ask “what do you need?” or “how can I help?” Be a support throughout their process of recovery. Recovery can be slow. Let them go at their own pace.
Help them understand and consider their medical, legal and psychological options. Share campus resources. There are times where professional help is best. Ultimately it is their decision what action to take, if any, but helping your friend work through these resources can be effective.
As a support person, you may have strong feelings and feel triggered from the information you have received. If needed, seek counseling for yourself.
Tell someone directly that their words or actions are not acceptable. You can intervene directly without being confrontational or escalating a situation.
Create a distraction to diffuse an unsafe situation and help move people out of harms way.
Ask someone else for help. Good resources include your RA, a trusted friend who feels comfortable intervening, or the police in an emergency situation.
If you didn't take action in the moment, it's not too late. You can always talk to someone after the fact. Offer campus resources or get help from others.