It is important to remember that faculty and staff members do not have a special privilege or ability to maintain the confidentiality of reports shared with them and should not promise confidentiality. However, you do have an opportunity to make a difference in the healing process during the initial conversation.
If a someone tells you tells you that she/he is a victim/survivor of sexual misconduct, here are some positive ways in which to respond, as well as some others to avoid:
Do Respond in these ways:
- Be receptive & responsive to how the student is behaving and try to stay attuned to the student’s emotions & feelings.
- Let them know that you do not intend to share his/her story with just anyone; but will need to share it with others (be honest) – as you are required to share the information and cannot keep it completely confidential to yourself.
- Be a validating and active listener. Validate their courage and strength for sharing this information with you. Be open and “present.”
- Acknowledge and affirm that it is a painful and difficult experience.
- Try to use the words they use to describe their situation (they call it “date-rape” – you call it the same thing) in order to avoid exaggerating or minimizing it.
- If the person tries to rationalize what happened, that is fine, but remind the person that what happened is not OK.
- Discuss next steps & reporting it.
- Express genuine concern, care and curiosity about the person’s well-being and safety.
The Public Safety and Student Affairs Staff will ensure the victim/survivor is aware of information about on- and off-campus counseling services where they can receive additional support, including their options for reporting to the police and seeking medical attention.
Avoid Responding in these ways:
- Don’t question the validity of what the person is telling you (i.e. doubting what happened; being skeptical; questioning why the person is telling you now about this, etc.).
- Don’t try to figure out all the details; rather, let the person share what they want to share. Your role is not to investigate. Do, however, listen closely as you will be asked by Public Safety what information you were told.
- Don’t make excuses for the attacker or minimize what happened.
- Don’t suggest having the victim & attacker meet; asking for an apology or to clear the air, etc.
- Don’t assume you know how they feel or label what happened since every situation and person is different / unique – don’t assume, tell, or dictate to the student how she/he should be feeling.
- Don’t compare your own experiences or feelings with the victim/survivor’s. This can be experienced as invalidating.
- Don’t guarantee complete confidentiality – let them know that you do not intend to share his/her story with just anyone; but will need to share it with others (be honest).
- Don’t share this information with others who are not the “need to know” people.
- Don’t ask about a survivor or anyone’s sexual history.
- Don’t make comments about the possible outcomes.
*If you do respond in any of the above ways, please inform the Administrator who is working with the victim/survivor – so he or she is aware and can assist in speaking further with him or her if needed.