Supporting Your Student
You probably know your student better than anyone else. It is likely that you could be the first to notice changes in your student’s mood or behavior, which may be early indicators of emotional or psychological distress.
Some indications that your student is in trauma may include:
- Changes in academic performance, motivation, concentration, grades, or class attendance
- Changes in behavior, energy, personal hygiene, speech, mood, sleep or appetite
- Changes in relationship patterns or the way they interact with loved ones; conflict in close relationships or social isolation
- Depression or references to suicide, statements about hopelessness or helplessness, or pessimism about the future
Students tend to turn to their parents or families when making important decisions. You can help build an important web of support that will help your student recover from a sexual assaulted. Some tips on supporting your student include:
- Speaking to your student when you notice something unusual
- Communicating directly in a caring manner about the behaviors that are causing concern
- Avoid being critical or judgmental
- Be willing to listen
- Ask directly how you can best be of help
- Help your student define the problem and identify possible solutions
- Encourage your student to seek counseling
- Consider seeking counseling for yourself to help you work through any anxiety you might be feeling as a result of your student’s trauma
For Parents or Caregiver of A Sexual Assault Survivor
If your student confides in you about being sexually assaulted, you may experience a number of conflicting emotions, such as anger, guilt, self-blame, betrayal, and helplessness. As a parent or family member, it is normal to feel any or all of these emotions at once. Your student has put a lot of trust in you to share such a sensitive experience, and perhaps without realizing it, has placed a lot of responsibility on you as well. Some common feelings you may have include:
- Concern for the survivor: How to help the survivor deal with the trauma.
- Helplessness: Parents and caregivers may wish they could have protected their child and want to fix the situation so that life can get back to normal.
- Feeling out of control: Just as the survivor is feeling the effects of the loss of control in her or his life, so do parents or caregivers.
- Wanting to harm the offender: This is a natural reaction, but not a realistic one. This creates further crisis and your student might feel the need to protect the offender, especially if the offender is known to the survivor.
- Loss of trust: Because the survivor needs time to work on trust issues, the loss of trust affects any relationship in which he or she is involved.
- Guilt: Parents and caregivers often feel guilty about their own feelings of anger at how the crisis is disrupting their family.
- Difficulty expressing feelings: Parents or caregivers may feel that, because they aren't the ones who experienced the assault, they should be able to deal with their feelings and "just get over it."
It is important for parents or caregivers to realize that their feelings are valid. Everyone who is directly involved with the survivor will be affected by the sexual assault. As you care for your student, it is also important that you take care of yourself and seek a form of emotional support.
General Guidelines for Helping Your Student
- Believe your student.
- Don't blame your student.
- Let your student ask you for what he or she needs, and try not to assume that you will automatically know.
- Seek outside resources and support for yourself