How to Help
If Someone You Know Has Been Assaulted:
Believe them. Nothing can be more devastating to a survivor of sexual violence than knowing that their friends don't believe what they are saying.
Establish yourself as a safe person. Being a safe person means that you are a person that won't pass any judgment and will let your friend lead their own recovery process. Just doing this will help your friend feel safe. Allow them to decide what makes them feel safe, don't choose it for them.
Ask “How can I be helpful to you?” If the survivor is contemplating some decision (i.e., getting a medical exam, reporting to the police, moving), help them explore their options and then let them have control over the decision.
Let them talk. Just having someone to listen is a huge help for the victim/survivor. No matter how hard it is for you to understand or hear, it is harder for them to say. Do not impose your own thoughts or feelings on the survivor – especially thoughts of feelings that are judgmental.
Don't try to rationalize what happened. It may be that if your friend knows the person that hurt them, so do you. The situation can be hard to understand, but the perpetrator’s actions are never justified. Never make excuses for the offender.
Encourage the survivor to seek help. NIU’s Confidential Advisor or Safe Passage (DeKalb County's 24-hour Rape Crisis Center) are confidential resources where they can get information or help. If they aren't interested in these resources, don't force these options on them. You may contact these resources for guidance on how to help your friend.
Be patient. Healing from a sexual assault takes time. Be patient and continue to offer your support to your friend throughout the coming weeks and months, or even longer. Remember that every healing process is unique.
Do not avoid the survivor or the subject. For a survivor, the thought of people being scared of them may be a huge concern. If you avoid your friend, you may be reinforcing their shame and fear.
Educate yourself about sexual violence and the trauma associated with it. It is not the survivor’s job to help you to understand what happened to them.
Get help for yourself. Having a friend who has been victimized can be a scary and confusing experience. NIU’s Counseling and Consultation Services can help you process what has happened. Additionally, you can contact the NIU Confidential Advisor to learn more about how you can understand this experience, how to help, and how you can get involved in anti-sexual misconduct work.
For Friends and Loved Ones
If a friend discloses to you:
Help empower your friend and loved one. Sexual violence is a crime that often leaves a survivor feeling powerless. Therefore it is critical that the support system around a survivor is not compounding the problem by pressuring them to do things they are not ready to do. Allow them to make their own decisions and to set the pace and tone of the discussion.
Create a safe space to talk. Whether it’s a dorm room, apartment, or a quiet spot off campus, ensure that the survivor feels comfortable and safe.
Assist with routine tasks. For some time after the attack, routine chores and responsibilities may seem burdensome for your friend, relative or partner. This person may be grateful for assistance with errands, child care, laundry, etc. To the extent that you are able, offer to help with these tasks and be prepared to follow through.
Encourage contact with outside resources. You may encourage your friend/loved one to contact NIU’s Confidential Advisor or Safe Passage (DeKalb County's 24-hour Rape Crisis Center), but never pressure them to report anything that they do not want to report. It is their decision whether or not to get help or make a report. Inform a survivor of the available resources, but allow them to make their own decisions.
Suicidal ideation should be treated seriously. If your friend or loved one mentions thoughts of suicide, immediately get them support from appropriate resources. Contact a Community Advisor, Residence Hall Director, or any other University staff that can help. Be sure to follow up any survivor who mentions that they had thoughts of suicide in the past.
Find support for yourself. Assisting a friend or loved one who has survived sexual violence can be a difficult experience. The only way to ensure that you're able to provide the best support to your friend or loved one is to take care of yourself throughout the process. Anyone who has been directly or indirectly affected by sexual violence is encouraged to reach out to NIU’s Confidential Advisor, 815-753-1206 or Safe Passage (DeKalb County 24-hour Rape Crisis Center) at 815-756-5228.
For Faculty and Staff
If a student or employee discloses information about any sexual misconduct, as a Responsible Employee you should:
Support the student by actively listening without interrupting. It may be common for them t to show a variety of emotions such as being sad, disconnected, angry, emotional, or even silent for periods of time. It may feel uncomfortable, but try your very best to be committed and in the moment with them.
Inform them of your reporting obligation. If you are not a confidential resource, let them know before they continue. You should make every effort to ensure students or employees understand this obligation before they disclose something they wish to keep confidential.
Refer them to confidential resources that are available. The best starting place on campus is the Confidential Advisor at Counseling & Consultation Services. If the student is choosing to not use campus resources, the best place to start in the community is Safe Passage. Please provide the student or employee with contact information for both resources and offer to help get the the student or employee connected to one of the services based upon their choosing.
Find support for yourself. Assisting a student who has survived sexual violence can be a difficult experience. The only way to ensure that you're able to provide the best support to your student is to take care of yourself throughout the process. Anyone who has been directly or indirectly affected by sexual misconduct may contact Employee Assistance Program at 815-753-9191.