I Want to Support Someone

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We at Illinois care about those who have been impacted by sexual misconduct, including supportive loved ones—family, friends, significant others, and allies. Below, we have included information on helpful ways to support a survivor for anyone who might be in contact with a survivor of sexual misconduct.

If you are interested in becoming an ally, educator, or advocate in the prevention of sexual misconduct, check out the Prevention & Training tab above to learn about various ways of getting involved.

If you are a parent or family member of a student who has been impacted in some way by sexual misconduct, please see Resources for Family & Friends for helpful information. Some of the best ways you can support your family member is by becoming aware of resources on campus and encouraging your student to utilize the ones that best fit their current needs. The FAQs tab above can be a good place to start as is the Resources for Students page.

If you know someone who has been accused of sexual misconduct and are wondering how best to support that person, these suggestions may be helpful.

Supporting a Survivor: A Guide for Family and Friends

Source: University of Illinois Women's Resources Center

When sexual misconduct affects someone you care about, you may feel upset and confused. At a time when you may want to help most, you might be dealing with a crisis of your own. Your support at a time like this can be extremely helpful to a victim of sexual misconduct. Here are some guidelines to help you through this time:

Believe.

Believe their experience without questioning or blaming them. Whatever the circumstances, they did not ask to be a victim of sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, dating violence or sexual exploitation. It is very common for victims to blame themselves, but the blame for sexual misconduct rests squarely and only with the perpetrator.

Respect.

Respect the fear that victims can feel even after the events are over. The perpetrator may have threatened to harm them if they did not comply. Help survivors deal with their fear by finding ways to increase their safety.

Accept.

The survivor may have strong feelings and they have the right to their emotions. They may feel numb, sad, angry, in denial, terrified, depressed, agitated, or withdrawn. Be supportive by accepting all of their feelings and provide an atmosphere of warmth and safety.

Listen.

Let the survivor know you want to listen. Try to understand what they are going through.

  • Let them talk and do not interrupt.
  • Find time to focus on the victim. Ask what they need from you.
  • You may feel nervous about stalls and silences. It's okay to be quiet.
  • Try repeating back the things they've said as a way to continue the talking.
  • Reassure them that they are not to blame.
  • Avoid asking blaming questions such as, "Why did you go there?" or "Why didn't you scream?"

Take the events seriously.

Pay attention, help validate the seriousness of their feelings, and recognize their need to work through these feelings. Being a victim of sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, dating violence or other forms of sexual misconduct can be a shattering experience. Recovery is a process of acceptance and healing which takes time — sometimes months or even longer — and requires support.

Stay.

Stay with the survivor as long as they want you to. Many victims of sexual misconduct feel frightened and vulnerable about being alone. This will pass with time.

Let the victim make their own decisions.

Do not pressure them into making decisions or doing things they are not ready to do. Help them explore all the options, but respect their privacy and confidentiality. If you are not required to report incidents of sexual misconduct based on your role with the University, then it may be beneficial to support the survivor in determining whom to tell about the sexual misconduct. However, faculty and staff who are made aware of sexual misconduct must immediately report the incident to the Title IX Office.

Care about their well-being.

In order to care about your friend, you may need to cope with some difficult emotions of your own. If you are experiencing rage, blame or changes in how you feel about your friend/relative, you can be most helpful by finding ways to cope with your own emotions. There are many resources, including counseling and advocacy services, that can help you process and feel empowered as an ally. Please check out the Resources for Family & Friends for assistance.