Helping a friend or loved one who has been victimized…
If someone you know has been sexually assaulted, stalked, or in an abusive relationship, the following are steps you can take to provide appropriate help and support to the victim/survivor:
- Listen, be supportive and non-judgmental. Don’t let your own emotions get in the way of your response. Understand that the survivor may be at a very different place emotionally than you would expect them to be. Survivors experience a wide range of reactions and emotions to trauma and victimization.
- Make it clear that the situation is not the survivor’s fault.
- Let the survivor choose which details to share with you. Don’t press for information.
- Let the survivor decide what actions to take to help her/him regain control. If you are uncertain what the survivor wants from you, ask.
- Offer options. Suggest calling to talk with a victim advocate, available 24 hours/day, who can explain all the options in detail, accompany the victim to resources, and provide crisis care. Both on campus and off campus advocacy services are available (see below). Other options to suggest are: seeking medical care; reporting to police; reporting to the Office of Equity and Inclusion to initiate UD’s conduct process; seeking a Protection From Abuse Order in Family Court (if the victim was in a relationship with the perpetrator at some point in time); utilizing emergency housing or shelter; seeking academic accommodations related to getting absences excused, exam postponed, or other possibilities; seeking a change to the housing assignment/lease; seeking financial compensation; and counseling. A victim advocate can explain and assist victims in pursuing these options.
- Suggest that they tell trusted others about the situation (family, close friends, significant others) in order to broaden their network of support.
- If your friend or loved one is affiliated with UD, refer to this website or to UD’s Sexual Misconduct site and specifically to the information listed on the specific resource pages on this site. If the survivor seems resistant to help, you may want to read this page yourself, to get more detailed information about the options available to them.
You may want to refer the survivor to the following resources:
- 24/7 Crisis/Victim Advocacy at UD through S.O.S. – call UD Helpline 24/7/365 at 302-831-1001 and press 1. The clinician will take a 1st name & phone number, page the advocate on duty who will call you back within 10 minutes.
- If the survivor is a UD undergraduate or graduate student, they may utilize Professional Advocacy/Crisis Counseling through Student Wellness & Health Promotion. To make an appointment, the survivor can go to Student Wellness, and click on the button in the teal box to the right. This will take you to the Student Health Service scheduling system. Choose “Victim Advocacy” for appointment type and you will see all the open appointments available. Or call 302-831-3457 during University business hours, 8:30am,-4:30pm Monday through Friday. Learn more about the difference between 24/7 services and what a professional advocate can provide.
- If the survivor is a professional staff or faculty member, or is not affiliated with UD, they may wish to utilize Professional Advocacy and follow-up Counseling services through community resources. In New Castle County (where UD is located), the YWCA’s Sexual Assault Response Center offers rape crisis services similar to those provided by S.O.S., including aftercare counseling, at 1-800-773-8570. In Kent & Sussex Counties, ContactLifeline also offers rape crisis services and aftercare counseling at 1-800-262-9800.
- Medical Care – The only hospital in New Castle County with a Forensic Nursing Unit to collect evidence (for adults) is the Emergency Room at ChristianaCare Medical Center. (AI DuPont Hospital for Children has a Forensic Unit at the ER for children.) If the survivor is not interested in pursuing criminal charges, basic medical care including STD testing, Emergency Contraception, treatment or injuries, and pregnancy testing, are provided at UD’s Student Health Service, at Planned Parenthood of Delaware or at the student’s own Primary Care Physician or OB/GYN office.
- If a student survivor is seeking counseling/therapy, they may wish to go to UD’s Center for Counseling and Student Development. Both the CCSD and a professional advocate at Student Wellness can provide survivors with referrals to counseling resources in the community.
- Delaware Domestic Violence Hotline – 302-762-6110
- National Sexual Assault Hotline – Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: 800-656-HOPE (4673) or online chat at http://online.rainn.org
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233 or online chat: http://www.thehotline.org/
- National Dating Violence Hotline – 1-866-331-9474 or online chat: http://www.loveisrespect.org/
Providing support for a survivor of sexual misconduct can be very emotionally painful and draining at times. Furthermore, if you are also a survivor, it can stir up your own feelings of victimization. Either way, as a helper, don’t be afraid to call S.O.S. or the Center for Counseling and Student Development for emotional support for yourself. Make sure that you have an outlet for your feelings. It is also very important that you know your limits. If you can no longer provide the kind of or amount of support that the survivor needs, try to help her/him get to these other resources as you establish your own helping boundaries. This step is healthy and important. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be in good shape to help others.
These concepts are expressed well via the “RESPECT” model for supporting a survivor, by the Joyful Heart Foundation. You also may want to download our document below about assisting a sexual assault survivor.