How can I help someone who has experienced sexual and interpersonal violence?
Start by believing the survivor. It takes a lot of strength and courage to disclose. Remember that no one, no matter what, deserved to be assaulted. Remind the survivor that the assault was not their fault and that you believe them.
Use encouraging words. When someone you care about tells you they’ve experienced violence; it can be a lot to process. A supportive reaction can make all the difference, but that doesn’t mean it always comes easy. Encouraging words and phrases can avoid judgement and show support for the survivor.
Know your limitations. If you or your friend are experiencing an emergency or they reveal that they intend to harm themselves or someone else, that is something you cannot keep to yourself. Call 911 in an emergency.
Let the survivor make their own decisions. You can provide information and options to the survivor, but always let the survivor make their own decisions. Many survivors feel a deep sense of disempowerment as a result of being violated. Instead of taking charge, ask how you can help.
Know your resources. You’re a great friend/supporter/resource, but that doesn’t mean you are equipped to manage someone else’s health. Become familiar with resources available on campus and in the community. Look up resources now, before you ever need them, so you can help a Mason student who might come to you.
Know your reporting responsibilities. Are you an RA, faculty, staff, or hold another position on campus that makes you required to report incidents of sexual misconduct? If so, it is important that individuals at the University are upfront about their reporting obligation. University employees, unless designated confidential in University Policy 1202, must disclose incidents of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator.
The Student Support and Advocacy Center is a confidential resource that can assist students in navigating the University system and making informed decisions regarding reporting options, medical treatment, and emotional support. However, informing SSAC does not eliminate the requirement to report incidents to the Title IX Coordinator.
Take care of yourself, too. It can be difficult to hear that someone we care about was hurt or that they experienced interpersonal violence. It is important to check-in with yourself and to take care of yourself too. Get to know the resources in our community, and don’t be afraid to reach out for support.
Respect the survivor’s healing process. The process of healing is just that, a process. Healing is not a linear process and each survivor heals in their own way and in their own time. Respect that some survivors want space and what they need may change over time.