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We Care. We Will Help. Addressing Sex-Based Offenses in the Campus Community

Support Page Content

How Do I Support Someone Who Reported?

It can be a distressing experience when a friend, a student, or even a colleague tells you that they have experienced trauma. Many people worry about saying the wrong thing. Please remember that you are receiving this disclosure because the person is likely looking for help.

Your main responsibility is to listen and to encourage the person to seek any or all of the available resources. The person may choose to use only one or even none of the resources presented. The important thing is that you listen and provide options. It is not your role to investigate the incident. The Office for Equal Opportunity (OEO) investigators will handle this aspect if applicable.

If you will be making a report to OEO, which is required if you are an employee, let the person (the complainant) know in a calm manner. Try not to interrupt or present this information in a negative way. You can simply explain that you are a required reporter and that it will be up to them if they would like to meet with OEO.

Here are some additional pointers when receiving a disclosure from someone who experienced trauma:

Some helpful things to do and say are:

  • Listen without interrupting.

  • Remain calm and concerned. Maintain eye contact.

  • Do not worry about having to say just the right thing – just being there can help!

  • Respect the language the student uses to identify what’s happened.

  • Remember that this is a time to allow the student to vent whatever emotions, thoughts or beliefs they have connected to their experience.

  • Allow for tears and expression of feelings.

  • Allow silence as silence means that the person is thinking and/or processing. This may also be an opportunity for you to think about how you can help and be there for the student.

  • Believe and support the person. (Reflect what you are hearing: “That must have been tough/frightening/scary for you.”)

  • Help the person identify one to two trusted support people. (“Even if you don’t know what you want to do right now, it can be helpful to talk to someone about your options.”)

  • Ask what you can do to be supportive. (“Would you like for me to go with you to talk with someone?”)

  • Ask if they want to get medical attention – no matter how long ago the assault occurred.

  • Have an appropriate behavioral response (Hugging or touching may be inappropriate. You can always ask “may I give you a hug?”). If this feels awkward to do, then it will be awkward.

  • Ask yourself, “Am I doing everything in my power to create an intentionally safe environment for this person with my verbal and non‐verbal language?”

Some things that are not helpful to do or say are:

  • Asking “why” questions or questions that may imply blame and put the student on the defensive (“What were you doing there?).

  • Asking questions to satisfy your own curiosity never assist the process.

  • Blaming or judging the person’s actions (“You shouldn’t have had so much to drink”).

  • Dismissing the person’s feelings or minimizing his/her experience (“It could have been worse”).

  • Trying to “fix” the problem (Telling the student what to do, such as “you need to talk to a counselor”).

  • Saying, “It will be OK.” This is only allowed if you are indeed a certified psychic and can predict the future 100% of the time. You don’t know it will be “OK”, but you can be there with them in the present moment where it is safe.

Please visit the following page for additional information on support services:

Support Services