You can do something to support a survivor:
- Believe them!
- Thank them for confiding in you and/or trusting you. Acknowledge the difficultly in coming forward.
- Allow moments of silence.
- Empower a survivor by letting them make decisions regarding how they want to move forward.
- Offer to walk them to some of the on campus resources.
Here are a few things NOT TO DO from Know Your IX:
- Question the validity of the victim’s claims. A victim’s worst fear is not being believed. Having someone question whether or not a person was actually violated, assaulted, or raped is a huge insult that can shake a survivor to their core. They have decided to trust you with a very personal story and they count on your support. Doubting the validity of their claims will only cause them more pain. Also, remember that over 92-98% of REPORTED rapes are not false reports. If they choose to report, many others will be skeptical — you can leave that job to police, school administrators, rape culture, etc.
- Seem cold or unapproachable. If you do this, the survivor may feel like they have no right to talk about what has happened to them. They may feel confused and lost as they struggle to reconcile a dismissive attitude towards their struggle with their own pain. Don’t make this situation more difficult than it needs to be for them. Open yourself up to them and make your presence and support known.
- Make excuses for the perpetrator. The assailant’s actions are inexcusable. Don’t suggest that the survivor approach the assailant to make sense of what happened or to “clear the air.” Don’t suggest a simple apology will remedy the problem.
- Tell the survivor what they must do. You can suggest what course of action they can take, particularly if they ask for your advice. Suggest resources they may use or offer to explore resources available to them, such as filing a report with law enforcement, talking with an attorney, seeking out therapy or medical aid, and talking to a rape hotline.
- Minimize the assault. Remember that one kind of rape or assault — by a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend, a partner — isn’t more or less “legitimate” than another. Don’t anticipate the ways in which a particular type of violence will affect a survivor, and don’t expect that one is necessarily more traumatic than another.
- Question why the survivor has decided to tell you now, even if it has been months or years since the assault.
- Shoulder the burden alone. A survivor may demand more of you than you are able to give. You are probably not trained to manage a survivor’s recovery, and may be emotionally exhausted. Be kind and honest with the victim about what you are able to do, and encourage them to seek professional help through a hotline or therapist. [Also, other on and off campus resources.]
- Share the survivor’s story without their permission. [If you are a mandated employee this does not apply to you, responsible employees must report to the Title IX Coordinator. If you are not a responsible employee it is best not to share the survivor’s story without their permission. However, if you are concerned about the survivor, you can share the information with a responsible employee or confidential resource for advice, support, etc.]