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 survivor know that they are not to blame for what happened.

  • Believe. Someone who experiences sexual violence if 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 they have 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. They may struggle to come to class out of fear of seeing the person who harmed them. 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 an act of sexual or relationship violence, 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, connect the student to resources such as an experienced counselor or SRVSS for support.

  • Be honest about how much you can help. Let the survivor know what your role is (e.g., provide information about available support resources and services, assist with connecting to those resources, etc.).

When do I let the student know that I am required to notify Title IX?

If a student begins to tell you about a sexual or relationship violence incident you should gently interrupt the student and explain you are required to share 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 responsible employee. This means I must inform a university staff member an assault has occurred. If you do not want details of what occurred to be documented or are not interested in making a complaint at this time, you have the right to maintain your privacy. I will only share what you confide in me."