How to Help Someone Who Has Experienced Sexual Violence

When someone tells you about their recent experience with sexual violence, you may not know what to do, what to say or how to respond.

You may experience a range of feelings including anger, fear, sadness and anxiety about how best to help them. The following suggestions may help you to support the survivor.

Let them know university resources are available:

  • CARE advocates are available to confidentially support and assist students, faculty, academic appointees and staff employees. CARE advocates are trained professionals who can connect them with psychological counseling, as well as explain medical, academic and reporting options.
  • UC faculty members, other academic appointees or staff employees have access to suport from the Faculty & Staff Assistance Program (FSAP), in addition to CARE resources.

You can:

  • Listen. Listening is one of the most important ways to help. Some survivors will open up right away, while others may need more time. Often, they just need someone to hear their story. Let them talk and simply listen without interrupting.
  • Believe them. Tell the survivor you believe them. When a survivor feels that you believe them, you've already facilitated an aspect of the healing process.
  • Let them make choices. Try not to tell the survivor what to do. Be there to help them get information and understand their options, but give the survivor the time and space to make their own decisions. You can help by supporting their decisions, even if you may not agree with them.
  • Be supportive. Show affection by speaking calmly and gently. If the survivor chooses to seek medical attention or make a report, offer to accompany them wherever they need to go (hospital, police department, etc.).
  • Respect the survivor's privacy. Don't tell others about the survivor's assault or reveal any names or details without the survivor's permission.
  • Take care of yourself. Supporting a survivor may be a very emotional and challenging experience. Pay attention to your needs — this could mean setting boundaries, spending time on activities you enjoy, or talking to a friend or counselor if needed.


How to Intervene

You may find yourself in a situation where you can help prevent sexual violence. Even if you don’t know the person involved, you can still help. Just remember these three options: Be direct (ask if they need help), distract (get the person away from the situation) or delegate (get help from someone else). Remember: You're capable just as you are right now to help end sexual violence.


Ask yourself:

  • Could I play a role here? 
  • If no one intervenes, what will happen? 
  • What are my options? What are the risks? 
  • Is someone else better placed to respond? Who? 
  • Can I be direct, delegate or distract? 

Be Direct

Whether you notice someone in distress at a party, or you’re worried that a friend might be in an abusive relationship, check in with them. Ask them if they need help. Be direct.

Ask the person:
  • “Are you OK?”
  • “I’m worried about you. Do you need help?”
  • “Is something going on?”
  • “Is there someone I can call for you?”
  • “Do you have a ride?”

Distract

If you notice someone is being pursued (physically or verbally) and looks uncomfortable, provide a moment of misdirection for them. It could give them the out they need to get away and be safe.

Say to the person:
  • "Hey, I think someone outside is looking for you."
  • "Did you drop your phone/keys/wallet back there? I’ll show you."
  • “Do you know where the _____ is? Can you show me?”

Delegate

If you’re hesitant to say something because you don’t know the person that well, or if getting involved feels unsafe, you can delegate. Get help from an authority figure or a friend of the person you’re concerned about. You can also call the police or tell your RA. Contact the CARE advocates or a counselor, or use these resources:

Confidential UCR Resources

County of Riverside (Off-Campus) Resources

Take a Stand

  • Get training from the Sexual Assault & Violence Education (SAVE) peer educators.
  • Share this page with friends.
  • Share your thoughts on social media.
  • Always look out for friends at social gatherings.
  • Support survivors. 

Adapted from the Green Dot approach to bystander intervention.

How to Help Someone Who's Been Sexually Assaulted as a Responsible Employee

It's often important for survivors to learn how their information is going to “travel.” We advise everyone who's currently employed at UCR to find out what their reporting obligations are before they engage in communication with survivors. If you've been designated a Responsible Employee (all UC employees) or a CSA (designated by UCPD/Clery Act), it would be best to disclose your status to the person disclosing BEFORE too much information is shared. If you have further questions or are unsure if you have a reporting obligation, please call the Title IX office at (951) 827-7070. 

Before the disclosure: 

“It sounds like you’re about to tell me about an incident involving sexual violence/sexual harassment. Just to remind you, I am required by the University to report the details to the Title IX office. This is so the University can review the case details, investigate if necessary and provide you with any resources or support that you may need to address the situation.”

— or —

“If you just want to talk about the issue of sexual violence/sexual harassment, reporting options or any support you might need, CARE advocates are a confidential resource that you can use.”

support a student

Some survivors might still choose to disclose their experience to you.

If so, please inform them that you'll need to inform the Title IX office of the following: 
  • Their name
  • How you heard about the incident
  • What you were told
  • Any contact information you have for them
  • Any other relevant information

 

Remember to:

  • Be empathetic
  • Listen
  • Don't investigate or probe too much — this is the responsibility of the Title IX office
  • Provide resources such as CARE, CAPS, etc.