Family & Friends
Harm from sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual assault affect people beyond those involved in the incident. Friends and family may also experience profound impacts as they are most often the first people to receive a disclosure of abuse from a loved one. This means that friends and family are often in the best position to assist their loved ones in getting resources, care, and support. Please consider the information below as you work with your loved one.
It can also be emotionally challenging to be a support person. It is also important for friends and family to practice good self-care and seek resources for themselves as well. Friends and families are welcome to contact the Title IX Coordinator for resource recommendations.
Supporting the Complainant
Sharing one's experience of sexual misconduct may be liberating and healing, but it can also be difficult and traumatic. How you respond to a disclosure can profoundly effect a survivor and the likelihood that they will seek out other resources, consider reporting the incident, and get support for managing the effects of the sexual misconduct. If someone chooses to disclose to you that they experienced sexual misconduct, consider the following ways to respond in a positive and helpful manner.*
- Listen without judgment and take what the survivor is telling you seriously.
- Don't force them to talk if they stop talking, respect their wishes but let them know you are there to listen when they are ready.
- Assist the survivor in finding and understanding available supportive resources, but do not make choices for them. Making self-determining choices is an important step in restoring a sense of control.
- If the survivor seeks medical attention or plans to report, offer to be to go with them. Your presence may help them from feeling isolated.
- Respect the survivor's privacy. If you have limits in the level of confidentiality you can provide, inform the person as soon as possible. If they wish absolute confidentiality, help them seek confidential resources.
- Use the same language the survivor uses in recounting the incident. Many survivors do not initially, or sometimes never, label their experience as "sexual assault" or "intimate partner violence."
- Be patient. Remember, there is no timetable for recovering from trauma. Avoid putting pressure on them to engage in activities they aren't ready to do yet.
- Encourage them to practice good self-care during this difficult time.
- If someone you care about is considering suicide, learn the warning signs, and offer help and support. For more information about suicide prevention please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call (800) 273-TALK (8255) any time, day or night.
*Adapted from RAINN.org.
Supporting the Respondent
Being accused of having engaged in sexual misconduct and being named a respondent (or responding party) in a Title IX case can be stressful, confusing, and unsettling.
If your friend has chosen to open up about the situation to you, it is important to:
- Listen to your friend's point of view and acknowledge their feelings.
- Refer them to supportive resources such as the Counseling Center or Chaplain's Office. Remember you don't have all the answers, and it is not your responsibility to determine what happened or to fix the situation.
- Talk to them about using one of the College's trained advisors or choosing another supporter person to act as their advisor so they don't have to go through the process alone.
- Be direct and honest about how much support you can offer and think about utilizing the free and confidential services provided by the Counseling Center yourself. Supporting a friend who is stressed and/or in crisis can be difficult.
When supporting your friend, it is important that you do NOT:
- Share their story unless asked to do so by case investigators.
- Tell them what to do.
- Contact or offer to contact the complainant (the person reported to have been harmed) on your friend's behalf. This could be seen as retaliation and retaliation against any participant in a Title IX case is strictly prohibited and could result in disciplinary action.