While the goal of Bystander Intervention is to provide students with the tools to prevent and eliminate sexual violence at BC, we do know that, unfortunately, sexual violence is still occurring. Many of our community members have been personally impacted by sexual violence.
With that being said, we want to provide resources which empower and support survivors. View the SANet resources website.
If a friend/loved one discloses to you that they are a survivor of sexual violence, here are some ways you can support them:
- Believe and Support - when they tell you what happened, say “I believe you.” Research studies for years have shown that survivors don’t come forward and share what happened to them for fear they won’t be believed. This fear of being believed can be compounded for folks with intersecting identities. You’re not an investigator or a law enforcement officer - you’re their friend. Your first job is to believe and support.
- Don’t imply responsibility or play investigator - remember when we talked about rape culture? Rape culture makes survivors feel it is their fault that they were assaulted. We know this is absolutely not the case. Try not to imply that they may have somehow been responsible for what happened to them, and don’t play the role of investigator. What matters is that your friend feels supported, rather than questioned or at-fault.
- Empower and support your friend - when someone is sexually assaulted, their agency is taken away from them. When supporting a survivor, it’s important to empower them to regain their agency in any way possible. One way to regain agency is for a survivor to make their own choices of who to tell and how to seek support. Rather than telling your friend what they should do, present them with some options and remind them that they are in control of what they do next. Ask - “How can I be most helpful right now?”
Above all, do not worry about “saying the wrong thing” or not remembering all of these tips. As long as you care about the person, and come from a place of caring, you will do a great job supporting them. Don’t forget we are all college students, not trained mental health professionals! The person who has disclosed to you feels comfortable enough and trusts you enough to come to you for help, so as long as you are there for them and what they need, that is all that matters. It is already helpful that they feel supported enough to come to you!