Student survivors are most likely to confide in friends and trusted adults. Your response can be an important part of their path to healing and critical to their continued access to and pursuit of their education.
If a student discloses to you, it’s generally a sign that they trust you and feel you’re caring person. Some reasons they may come to you include:
- You conveyed that you promote respect and safety
- They perceive you’re in a position to assist, like adjusting their work schedule or helping with academic accommodations
- They don’t know where else to go
By educating yourself and following simple guidelines, you can confidently and effectively respond to students who have experienced trauma.
It is important to be honest and clear about the limits of your confidentiality before a student shares an experience with you. For example, you could say:
Before we continue, I want to let you know that I may be required to report information that is shared with me about incidences of sexual violence and harassment to campus officials. This could prompt an investigation and a campus crime warning. If you would like to speak with someone who is confidential, I can help you to get connected with one of those resources.
Providing students with this information allows them to make informed decisions about how they would like to proceed. Some students may choose not to share but may still need your help to make supportive adjustments to their in-class work.
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Above all, your role is to provide a compassionate and appropriate response. Listening is the single most important thing you can do. Let the student know that they are not to blame.
I’m sorry that happened.
Thank you for telling me.
How much were you drinking?
Why didn’t you call the police?
Allow the student to make choices about how to proceed after an experience of trauma. This is one way for them to regain the control that may have been taken away from them through a traumatic experience. Work with the student to consider options how you may be in a position to provide help; for example, by making changes to assignments, providing extensions, etc.
What do you think would be helpful for you today?
I think you need to report this right now.
You are not expected to be an expert; however, you can direct the student to offices and agencies that have well-trained staff to provide victim support. Click here for information about campus and community resources for victims of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking.
Would it be helpful to talk to someone further about this?
You need to talk to someone in the Dean of Students Office about this immediately.