For Students Helping Survivors
When someone you know or care about experiences a form of harassment, discrimination, or sexual misconduct, you may experience a range of feelings, including anxiety about how best to help them. The following suggestions may help you support your friend, fellow student, or loved one.
Ways to Respond
- Offer unconditional support and compassion. Tell the survivor that you believe them.
- Don’t tell the survivor what to do. Experiencing violence may make a person feel as if they have lost control and it’s important not to compound this by adding pressure to do things that they do not want to do or are not yet ready to do. There is no “right” way to cope with trauma.
- Offer resources and information without pressure or judgment about their decisions.
- Don’t press for details. Allow the survivor to share what they want, when they want. Avoid “Why?” questions. You may be attempting to better understand or get control over the situation, but these questions may be interpreted as blaming or skeptical. The answers won’t change what happened.
- Challenge statements of self-blame. The responsibility for the encounter lies with the perpetrator(s), regardless of the person’s actions leading up to, during, or after the incident.
- If the survivor wants to seek medical attention or report the encounter, offer to accompany them wherever they need to go.
- Be patient.
- Ask how you can help.
Take Care of Yourself
Hearing about violence can be a very upsetting experience. Here are some things to keep in mind for yourself when supporting a survivor:
- Realize your feelings are valid. Practice self-compassion.
- Pay attention to your own needs — this could mean setting boundaries, taking extra time for activities that enjoy, etc.
- If needed, seek outside resources to help you get through this difficult time: you could talk to a counselor, a close friend, or a hotline — just make sure to respect the survivor’s privacy.
Following an incidence of violence, people often experience a range of reactions that can impact their ability to perform well at school or work. Some of these include:
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- An inability to concentrate or focus
- Preoccupation with the event
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Fear of leaving a safe space
A student experiencing any of the above may want to reduce their academic load for the semester. When there has been a serious situation such as a sexual assault or domestic violence, the University will support a change in your academic schedule, even after deadlines have passed. This may include:
- Dropping classes
- Arranging for incompletes for courses
- Taking a leave of absence
- Withdrawing from school
Professors will often be very accommodating regarding deadlines and will work with students to complete a course when proper documentation is provided.
To discuss options regarding academic support, students may speak with the Dean of Students, Title IX and Equity Coordinator, their academic advisor, or the Dean of their academic school.
For Student Leaders, Resident Assistants, Staff, and Faculty Helping Survivors
- Thank the survivor for trusting you enough to share, and ask them if they are getting support. Refer the student, faculty, or staff member to appropriate resources, if desired and always notify the Title IX and Equity Coordinator.
- Please refrain from asking the survivor about the details of the incident. Let them share with you what they wish to share.
- Offer options. Be clear as to what you can and cannot do. For example, as an academic advisor, you could help the student adjust their course load, withdraw from school, change a grading option, and offer referrals. It is not appropriate to become an informal counselor.
- Faculty can be supportive by offering academic flexibility as the student is likely to have difficulty focusing for a period of time. Check to see if the student feels safe in you class, and if not, please contact the Dean of Students Office for assistance.
- Protect the survivor’s privacy. As much as it’s normal to talk with someone when we hear upsetting situations, this should be done without names and details. With the exception of Counseling services, all University staff and faculty have a reporting responsibility, so please let the person know this as early in the conversation as possible.
- Be mindful of your own needs and self-care. People in supporting roles may benefit from consultation or counseling with a professional.
If you or someone you know has experienced discrimination, harassment, or sexual misconduct, please know that there are trained professionals at Goodwin University who are available to offer compassionate, confidential support, and counseling, if you wish. Every concern or question you have is valid and important. University staff can also provide assistance connecting survivors with an advocate to be present throughout any reporting process you may choose.