While you are not expected to act as a counselor, when you are with someone who has experienced sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence or stalking, you should be aware that the supportiveness of your response can be critical in the healing process. Though there is no one "right" way to respond, the following may serve as a guide identifying more or less helpful responses:
Do's and Don'ts
- Give them your complete attention.
- Validate their feelings.
- Tell them:
- "I believe you."
- "This was not your fault." "You have options" "Thank you for coming forward."
- "What do you need” “how can I help” “Do you want to talk to someone confidentially?”
- Offer them options:
- To sit or stand.
- To share more or be silent.
- To call referral offices, Campus Security, or not, or to have you call.
- Ask them what they need.
- Remind them that they are not alone, that other people of all genders have experienced sexual misconduct.
- Provide them with information about the resources available to them, including confidential counseling, medical resources and reporting resources.
- Suggest that that they take steps to preserve evidence such as obtaining a medical exam, saving all communications, photos, videos as available.
- Schedule a check in in a few days or a week to see how they are doing.
- Report the incident to the Title IX Coordinator by filling out a report. You may also report via phone at 509-313-6910, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Take care of yourself after dealing with the situation. Get support for yourself if you need it. Consider speaking with a confidential counselor.
- Tell them that you know what they are going through.
- Label the experience for them or make any legal conclusions.
- Minimize their experience (e.g. that's just how that person is.)
- Tell them what they should do or make decisions for them.
- Ask them questions that suggest they are to blame (e.g. What were you drinking? What were you wearing? Why didn't you run? What were you doing in that place?)
- Question whether they are telling the truth or show doubt about their story.
- Tell them that they need some proof or evidence.
- Touch their leg, shoulder, hand, etc. unless they have explicitly told you that it is okay to do so.
- Talk about your own experience, issues, or history.
- Guarantee complete confidentiality, particularly if you are a University employee with a reporting obligation.
- Panic. Take a deep breath and focus on listening to the survivor.