It can be difficult to know what to do or say to help when someone you care about has been harmed and is struggling with hard emotions like confusion, anger, blame, sadness, fear, helplessness. But there are ways for you to give support. First, remain calm and focus on actively listening to what the victim shares with you. Respond with empathy and offer physical comforts, such as a seat, a cup of cool water or hot tea, and a box of tissues. Some examples of empathetic responses include, “I’m so sorry about what happened to you. It was wrong, and I’m glad you felt comfortable telling me about it. What can I do to help right now?” and “It’s understandable that you’re so upset. What happened to you was not your fault. Why don’t you sit down while I grab you something to drink? Then we can talk about what would help you most right now.” While it can be natural to want to ask questions to learn more about what happened, try to limit your questions to those focused on the victim’s needs. Some examples of questions that help clarify the victim’s needs include: “Do you feel safe right now?” and “What can I do to help right now?” Do not make any statements or ask any questions that could be interpreting as blaming or judging the victim. If the victim requests help in locating resources or figuring out their options, you can use the All In website to learn more about these resources and options. Encourage them to connect with a counselor or advocate for professional support and further help in understanding and evaluating their options. Finally, be sure to take care of yourself. Providing support to someone who has been a victim of sexual harassment or violence can bring up a lot of difficult emotions for you. Most of the resources listed on the All In website, such as Case Management and Victim Support Services and the Counseling Center, offer support and services to all students, and resources like the EAP offer support to all employees.
How do I tell a student about my Care Connection obligation?
If you are an employee with an obligation to make a Care Connection, it is important to let a student know as soon as reasonably possible about this obligation so that the student remains in control of how much information is shared with the university. This is why faculty are asked to put the Title IX language in their syllabus, so that every student knows of their rights and your responsibilities under Title IX similar to the ADA. That being said, letting a student know about this obligation too quickly in a conversation can also have the effect of making a student feel like you are uncomfortable with their disclosure and, even worse, that they shouldn’t tell people about what happened to them. While every conversation will be different, it’s important to try to strike a balance between offering an empathetic listening ear and letting a student know that you will need to make a Care Connection so that they are offered supportive services. Here’s an example of how you can balance both of these needs: “I’m so sorry that that happened to you, and I’m glad you felt comfortable telling me. I want to make sure you get connected with the support that you need right now, and to that end, Tulane requires me to make a Care Connection. This means that I will share what you’ve just told me with the professional advocates on-campus at Case Management and Victim Support Services (CMVSS) so that they can offer to talk with you about the full range of resources and options available to you. What questions do you have about that?” You can also share with the student that they can decline to meet with CMVSS when they reach out. Depending on the student’s needs, you may also offer to call the Counseling Center together to request an emergency appointment or to call CMVSS together to make an immediate Care Connection.
How do I know that the Care Connection will do more good than harm? I feel like I’ve just betrayed the student’s trust!
Trauma-informed, trained advocates can help victims on their recovery journey by providing emotional support, information about resources and options, and connections with supportive services. They can also assist victims in navigating reporting and adjudication processes. Research has shown that connection with a trained advocate, like the advocates at Case Management and Victim Support Services (CMVSS), has many benefits for victims and survivors of sexual violence. One study found that rape survivors who worked with advocates reported less secondary victimization from legal and medical system personnel, among other benefits. The study concluded that “rape victim advocates appear to provide numerous benefits and can prevent serious negative consequences for rape survivors.”
You may feel that you are betraying a student’s trust or taking control away from them by making a Care Connection. However, the student can choose whether or not they accept outreach and support from the university. Furthermore, we don't know what is a betrayal or not to a student; often students appreciate that their disclosure was met with care and concern by the university. One study found that many victims of sexual violence chose not to seek university services because they didn’t think their experience was serious enough to warrant resources. We want our students to know that any incident of sexual harassment or violence is worthy of support. Care Connections ensure that students receive that support without any questions asked or hoops to jump through. Students benefit from being connected with resources and support and, in most cases, are grateful for the connection. Our advocates at CMVSS offer trauma-informed, victim-centered services that empower students to make informed decisions in their recovery process. Their goal is always to promote a student’s safety and well-being.