Information for Family, Friends, and Partners
Sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and sexual harassment, is about taking away control from another person. This is why it is so important for survivors of sexual assault to get to choose how they want to move forward. Choosing to talk about the incident often a person's first chance to regain control over what has happened. Encourage the individual to report the sexual assault incident to the police or the University, but accept the person's choice of what she/he decides to do. Reinforce that even if someone doesn’t want to do a report, there are still many places on and off campus that can help provide support and resources to help the person heal. It is very important that the person who experienced these acts make decisions and have them respected. Avoid trying to take over and do things for the person; it is vital that the person who experienced the incident get to be in control of what happens next.
You can help someone who has experienced sexual misconduct by believing her/him, listening and offering comfort. Try to resist asking specific details. One way to do this is by asking more generic questions such as "Is there anything else you want to tell me?" Always believe someone who discloses a sexual assault to you. The worst feeling in the world is for someone to have the courage to come forward and feel like no one believes what (s)he is saying. Help him/her reach out to professionals who can provide more resources. Go with her/him to the hospital, helping him/her call resources, or by aiding her/him in filing a report with university officials or the police.
After an incident of sexual misconduct, the individual may be cautious of many things, including how close (s)he is to others and physical touch. While your inclination may be to hug them, ask first before you touch or hug the person. Everyone responds differently to physical touch after an incident like this.
There is no one "normal" response to sexual misconduct. Emotions can range from fear, guilt, and shame and anger, anxiety and panic. It is highly recommended that survivors pursue some form of counseling. Free counseling is available through Gonzaga's Counseling Center, and also by calling the Lutheran Community Services’ Sexual Assault and Family Trauma Response Center, a non-Gonzaga affiliated community agency at 509-624-7273. Some people experience physical symptoms such as sleeplessness, panic, vomiting, and flashbacks. If physical symptoms continue or worsen, it is highly recommended that person(s) affected seek medical attention. Gonzaga's Health Center is available to help students, as are local community providers. Sometimes having a friend or family member offer to go with the survivor to see a counselor or doctor can be a great first step toward feeling comfortable getting assistance. It may be helpful for friends or family to seek their own counseling as well.
Support is vital but please also be aware of your own limitations. Oftentimes, if you are the first person someone has told about what (s)he experienced, that person may want to rely on you to be their only support system. Please know that this is not healthy for you, nor for that person. Helping that person get connected to trained professionals such as counselors or therapists.
Gonzaga University is committed to fostering a safe and healthy environment free from sexual misconduct of any form. Students are expected to uphold community values of respect, care, honesty, and concern for each person (cura personalis), values rooted in the Catholic, Jesuit tradition. By accepting their admission to Gonzaga University, students agree to live by our policies, values, and expectations. We expect that students conduct themselves as respectful members of the community, and avoid actions, intentional or unintentional, that harm or endanger the welfare or safety of others. Conduct which constitutes sexual misconduct, as outlined in the Student Handbook, will not be tolerated, and will be pursued through the Student Conduct System. For Gonzaga's sexual misconduct and harassment policy, please see the Gonzaga Student Handbook at: www.gonzaga.edu/studenthandbook.