What To Say and Do
Individuals rarely create false reports/stories of victimizations. Assume that they are telling you the truth and that he or she trusted you enough to share this information. It is important that you reassure the student that you do believe s/he was victimized, regardless of the situation or the decisions made prior to the assault.
If a student discloses an incident of sexual assault, relationship violence or stalking, he or she needs your support. Talking to them may help improve the situation and be the first step towards the healing process. Let him/her know that you care and want to help.
Listen to them. Know that there is no “correct” way to respond. The important thing is that you talk to the student in a supportive and reassuring manner. Don’t judge them, blame them or question their actions.
Assure the student
Advise the student that it was not their fault. No one asks to be the victim of a crime. Reassure the student that they are not to blame, that they are safe, and that there are resources out there to help.
Be the student’s advocate
Let the student know that there are people and resources on campus and in the community who can help. Help identify a support system for the survivor (friends, family, students, student groups, faith-based organizations, counseling, mental health, etc).
What to way/not to say to someone suffering from a traumatic event
It is difficult to find the right things to say when someone is struggling with a traumatic event or when someone is suffering. Although our intentions may be to alleviate pain and discomfort, often times our efforts communicate just the opposite. Please consider the words you use when communicating with a victim.
Examples of what to say to someone suffering from a traumatic event:
- You are safe here.
- I'm glad you came here for help.
- Your reactions are normal.
- You must have been very frightened. It took a lot of courage to tell someone about what happened.
- It's not your fault.
- I'm sorry this happened to you.
- How can I help you.
Examples of what NOT to say to someone suffering from a traumatic event:
- Well at least ... or be thankful that this...
- You'll get over it.
- It could have been worse.
- I understand how you feel.
- I know what you're going through.
Source: TAASA (2007)