Every person reacts differently to trauma—There is no "right" way to react to sexual violence.

Some people might completely shut down and seem blank; some might cry; some might want to act like nothing happened and go back to "normal." How a person feels one minute, one hour, one day, isn't how they'll always feel as they continue to process what has happened.

It can be difficult to know what to do or say to help when someone you care about is struggling with hard emotions like confusion, anger, blame, sadness, fear, helplessness. But there are ways for you to give support.

Supporting Your Friend

When a friend is in pain or in need, our first instinct is to help. But what is the best way to help a friend who has experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, or relationship violence?

What to Say

The single most important thing you can do to help your friend is to believe them and offer support. Your friend is vulnerable, and your reaction can influence whether they choose to share information with others, including the police or mental and physical health counseling services.

  • Believe and let them know that you are glad they felt comfortable sharing this with you.
  • Assure and reassure them that what happened was not their fault. Self-blame and self-doubt are common reactions of victims of sexual violence.

What to Do

Reacting or acting in a supportive way can help your friend feel safe.

  • Be calm. If you are in crisis, the victim or survivor may feel the need to take care of you rather than themselves. Be aware of the importance of separating your own experiences and emotions.
  • Listen and don’t judge. Let them decide what and how much information they want to share with you.
  • Be informed. Learn about the services available at Centre and in Danville and be able to assist them in connecting to resources. You can call any of the resources on campus to ask them about the services they provide--friends often make the first outreach to support services, helping the victim feel more comfortable with connecting to the College's support options.
  • Encourage. If they choose to report to law enforcement or the college, support them in those choices. Offer to go with them to speak to the Title IX Coordinator or to the Police.

Get Support

Supporting someone who is in pain can take a toll on your own mental health and well-being. Remember to take care of yourself. Every resource available to victims is also available to you too.

Supporting Your Child

As a parent, learning that your son or daughter was the victim of sexual violence can be incredibly overwhelming. Feeling rage, helplessness, guilt, anguish, fear, and anxiety is natural. You might feel the urge to hurry up and “fix” things even when you know that’s probably not possible. Here are some guidelines to help you support your student’s recovery.

What to Say

  • Believe and let them know that you are glad they felt comfortable sharing this with you. Speaking out is often very difficult for a victim. Your reaction can strongly influence whether or not they choose to share information with others, including the police, the university or mental and physical health counseling services.
  • Assure and reassure them that what happened was not their fault. Self-blame and self-doubt are common reactions of victims of sexual violence.

What to Do

  • Listen. It might feel like a role-reversal, but in this situation, as a parent, your job is to listen actively and non-judgmentally. Let your student control what and how much information they want to share with you. Digging for every detail can overwhelm or alienate them. Tell them you are there to listen and support them.
  • Accept that your student might not have come to you before their friends, professors, college administration, counselors, or others. Don’t put them on the defense. What matters is that they came to you now. Now is the time to support them and help them heal.
  • Allow your student to decide the next steps. There is no way to undo the past. Victim-survivors of sexual violence, relationship violence, and stalking need to maintain the ability to control the next steps and their personal healing process. Where possible, offer guidance and information about available resources and additional support, but let them choose.
  • Control Your Emotions. It is natural to grieve with your student but try to control your emotions when talking about what happened. It’s hard for a student to see their parent struggle or lose emotional control, and they might feel guilt or shame for sharing their situation with you.

Get Support

Seek out support for yourself. Neglecting your own emotional, mental and physical health to take care of your student will make it more difficult for you to support your student. Many of the resources available to your student are available to you too.

Supporting Your Student

As an employee at Centre, you have an obligation to report any incidents of sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, or relationship violence that you either witness or are disclosed to you by students. In no event should the disclosing victim be told that your conversation will be confidential. You can report disclosures online here: Make a Report or call the Title IX Coordinator at 859-238-5881.

Faculty members are in a unique position to provide care to our students. You see students on a continual basis, so you are able to see changes in student behavior, such as:

  • Increased emotions or anxiety
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Chronic absenteeism

All of these can be signs that a student is experiencing stress or crisis, like a sexual assault. Your care can help connect a student to the resources that they need.

Academic Accommodations for Survivors

  • Students who experience sexual violence may need accommodations in their classes, including:
  • They may miss class for appointments with counseling or the police.
  • They may require extensions on assignments.
  • They may have safety concerns that impact their seating arrangements.

Either your student or someone involved in the Title IX process will speak with you about these needs, and it is the expectation of every faculty member to provide reasonable accommodations to help remedy the effects of sexual assault.

Sexual violence should not stand in the way of a student's success. Your support can ensure that does not happen.

Respondent Support

Being accused of any violation of the college policy is difficult. In sexual violence cases, it can be particularly hard to process. Just as friends might turn to you if they are a victim of sexual violence, a friend might confide in you that they have been accused of committing sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, or relationship violence. Knowing how to support an accused individual—or, respondent—can be hard.

If someone accused of sexual violence turns to you for help, here are some ways you can provide support:

  • Listen actively and without judgment. Listening isn’t condoning what may or may not have happened. You don’t need to take sides or even express your opinion at all. Just listen.
  • Learn more about sexual violence and the conduct process to help sort out your feelings as well as better support your friend.
  • Direct your friend to resources on campus, like the Counseling Center where they can speak about what they are experiencing and process their feelings. They might feel scared and overwhelmed about the conduct process, so encouraging them to speak to the Title IX Coordinator to learn more about their rights and explain the investigation and adjudication processes can help manage their concerns.

Get Support

As you provide support to your friend, remember that you can best take care of others when you take care of yourself. Supporting someone who is dealing with sexual assault allegations can be confusing and emotionally fraught, so don't hesitate to reach out to those same support resources to get the help you need, too.

A Note on Retaliation

We all can feel deep loyalty to our friends; just like with reported victims of sexual violence, there can be a need to "fix" what your friend is experiencing or "make it go away." You might want to speak to the reporting student or take some action to communicate your support for the respondent. It is important for you to remember that Centre prohibits retaliation against individuals (including the respondent) involved in the reporting, investigation, and adjudication of sexual violence. Also know that your friend might have a "No Contact Order" with the reporting student, so your actions need to respect that order's directives.

If you have any questions or concerns about what constitutes retaliation or about No Contact Orders, contact the Title IX Coordinator.

Information based on resources available at Tulane University.