Responding to a Student
Tips for responding to a student who discloses experiencing power-based personal violence.
Listen Without Judgment
Listen to the survivor and ascertain why they have come to you and what they need or want from you. Listening is the single most important thing you can do. No one deserves to be the victim of violence, regardless of the surrounding circumstances. Avoid victim blaming and asking questions that could imply fault, such as "How much were you drinking?" or "Why didn't you call the police?" Instead, offer your support with a statement such as, "I’m sorry that this happened to you. Thank you for telling me." Let the victim know that they are not to blame for what happened.
Believe. Victims of sexual violence are often met with disbelief when they decide to tell someone. In most cases, their trust in someone they know has been broken. They may be hesitant to trust others with their story. Remember, you are not an investigator; you are someone the victim has decided to trust and to confide in. Let them know that you believe and will support them.
Be flexible, if possible, when it comes to deadlines and assignments. Survivors of sexual violence may need to miss class to seek treatment or participate in the judicial process. Maximize the survivor’s comfort. Be compassionate and caring.
Give students options and information if they ask for them, but do not feel that you have to tell them what to do. After a sexual assault many survivors feel powerless. By giving them choices you give them the power to choose what is best for them.
Connect with appropriate resources. Do not feel that you have to advise or counsel the student, especially if you are not comfortable with that role. You can let the student know that you are concerned about their welfare, refer the student to an resources such as an experienced counselor or the SRVSS Office for support.
Be honest about how much you can help. Let the survivor know what your role is (e.g., provide information about their rights and available victim support resources and services, assist with law enforcement notification, etc.).
When do I let the student know that I am required to report?
If a student begins to tell you about a sexual assault or sexual harassment incident you should gently interrupt the student and explain you are mandated to report any information which is confided in you. Being prepared by having the statement below on your syllabus or in your office may help to keep misunderstandings from occurring.
"I need to tell you that I am considered a mandated reporter. I must inform the university an assault has occurred. If you do not want details of what occurred reported or are not interested in making a complaint at this time, you have the right to maintain your privacy. I will only report what you confide in me."