Supporting a Survivor
FOR EMERGENCIES OR IMMEDIATE HELP, PLEASE CALL 911 or 44-911 (from an on-campus phone)
OR Campus Safety at 773.508.6039
Know that if someone discloses that they've experienced sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, or stalking to you, they likely see you as a person they can trust. Research indicates that the way you support a student can positively impact their recovery. You are not alone and there are campus resources to support you and the student.
Someone who has experienced a violation like sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, or stalking has had power and control taken away from them. One of the ways you can be helpful is to support the student in whatever choices they make moving forward. Healing is a highly individual process and whatever decisions the student makes are the right ones for them at that time. Here are some Dos and Don'ts that can help:
DO listen and believe the survivor. Very few people lie about these types of violations. Consider how difficult it must be to recount what has happened and be humbled that a student has chosen you to share this with.
DO remind the survivor that it is not their fault. The responsibility lies with the perpetrator making the decision to violate the integrity, privacy, and body of another person. No matter what the person was wearing, how much they had to drink, or any other decision that was made leaves one deserving of being abused, assaulted, or stalked. Asking questions like, "Why didn't you..." is victim-blaming and extremely harmful to survivors.
DO let the survivor know that you care using a calm and compassionate tone.
DO remember your role. You are not a counselor nor an investigator. Thus, it is important not to ask prying questions, not to detail what the student should have done differently, and not to name, analyze, or define the student's experience.
DON'T overly express your own feelings or detail a similar personal experience. This conversation is not about you. The survivor deserves a space for themselves. By reacting strongly or sharing your own story, the survivor may feel like they need to care for you in this moment, rather than get the support they desire.
DON'T define their experiences for them. Many survivors shy away from such words like "rape, "violence," or "stalking" because these words carry a lot of stigma and fear. Use the same words that the student is using.
DO provide the survivor with resources. There are many sources of additional support for students at Loyola. Ask the survivor what they'd like to happen next. If they'd like to talk with someone confidentially who can more fully explain their options, they can access Advocacy Services by calling the Sexual Assault Advocacy Line at 773-494-3810.
There are resources for you, too. Learning that someone you care about has experienced sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, or stalking can be distressing. You are not alone and there are people on campus who can help you process what you've heard and help you to continue support the student. You can connect with an advocate by calling the Sexual Assault Advocacy Line at 773-494-3810.
DO take care of yourself:
- Understand your own feelings. You may also feel confused, hurt, angry, or frightened. Such feelings are normal.
- Know and respect your own limits. There is only so much you can do to help your friend. You can provide support, compassion, and companionship when your friend wants it, but try not to make commitments that you can't fulfill.
- Remember that it was not your fault. You may feel guilty, thinking that somehow you could have prevented what your friend is experiencing. Don't forget that you are not responsible for someone else's actions.
- Don't be afraid to ask for outside help. Find someone other than your friend to talk with about your feelings. Talking with someone else may help you understand your own emotions and give you a clearer perspective on the situation. You are not alone and there are people on campus who can help you process what you've heard and help you to continue support the student. You can connect with an advocate by calling the Sexual Assault Advocacy Line at 773-494-3810.
If you would like to learn more about how to support the survivors in your life, consider attending a Survivor Ally Training.