Here at WSU, Cougs help Cougs. Our community cares deeply about supporting and encouraging one another in all areas of our lives. This way of thinking is especially important when it comes to supporting survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking. How we respond to survivors can have a huge impact on how they feel about their experience and what actions they take as they heal.
When someone tells you about their experience, it can be incredibly tough to know what to say and do. If you find yourself in that situation, remember what matters most: listen, believe, and support.
Listen. The most important thing you can do is listen without judgment. Even asking too many detailed questions can feel critical. Let the survivor tell their story at their own pace, with the details they feel comfortable providing. For some survivors, sharing their story is an important part of healing. Listening non-judgmentally and offering empathy will help them to feel safe and cared for.
Believe. People rarely make up stories of violence. Believe the survivor. If they say they were hurt, then they were. Assure your friend that it’s not their fault, no matter what happened, and that you believe and want to support them.
Support. Survivors can experience a range of emotions that are all normal. Encourage your friend to access support services, but let them decide if and when they want to use the resources you offer. You can find a comprehensive list of confidential and university resources from the Office of Equal Opportunity. If you’re able to and feel comfortable, you can offer to go with them. Everyone responds differently, and survivors’ needs may change over time. Check in with your friend occasionally and offer support again.
These conversations can be incredibly difficult and emotional. After talking with a friend about their experience with violence, you may want to consider seeking resources or support for yourself as well.
Supporting survivors is just one way Cougs take action against sexual assault and interpersonal violence in our community. Check out this list of simple steps you can take to help prevent violence and make our campus a safer place.
Do you want more information on how to make our campus safer? Sign up to receive news and resources for preventing violence in our community.
This post, originally published in April 2016, has been updated with new resources and information.