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General Tips for Supporting Survivors

  1. Listen, without judgment. Listening is the single most important thing you can do.  Avoid blaming the survivor for what occurred and asking questions that imply fault, such as “How much were you drinking?” or “Why didn’t you call the police?” Instead say something like, “I’m so sorry that this happened to you. Thank you for telling me.” Let them know that they are not to blame for what happened: “It’s not your fault.” Victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, and stalking are often met with disbelief when they decide to tell someone. Remember, you are not an investigator tasked with determining if this happened or who is responsible, but a confidant. 
  2. Mirror the language used by the survivor.  If they do not call the incident an assault or rape, try to refrain from using such labels.
  3. For responsible employees: Explain your role and describe what that obligation entails. Reports may either be made with the student/employee or after the student/employee has left the space, but please let the reporting party know that you are required to share this information with the Title IX Coordinator. Reports should include all information that you were provided by the reporting party. A report to the Title IX Coordinator does not start the formal complaint process. 
  4. Refer the survivor to resources on campus and in the community that are specifically designed to deal with these issues. Resources can be found online at this website or by contacting the Title IX Office directly.
  5. Support the survivor’s decisions about how to proceed. Avoid giving advice or telling them what they “should” or “must” do. It is not helpful to push someone toward making a choice that they’re not ready for or don’t want to make. Sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, and stalking are often about someone else taking control of one's life and body, so the best support is honoring the survivor's agency. 
  6. Don’t be afraid to follow up with the survivor after the disclosure. Letting survivors know that you take their disclosure seriously and that you care about their well-being can be extremely validating. For example, begin the conversation with “I was thinking about the conversation we had the other day. How are you doing?”
  7. Be sure to obtain information and support for yourself as a helper. Being exposed to issues related to sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, and stalking can be difficult. It is not uncommon for first responders to experience secondary/vicarious trauma, and it can be helpful to discuss your experiences or feelings with another professional. For more resources, contact the Title IX Office directly.

Information for Faculty & Staff

  • Swarthmore College faculty and staff, other than listed confidential resources, are designated as "responsible employees."  Pursuant to College policy, responsible employees are required to report to the Title IX Office any information related to disclosures of sexual misconduct made to them by Swarthmore College community members.  For an overview of this reporting obligation, please review the Responsible Employee Primer [pdf].
  • To better understand what happens once the Title IX Office receives a report of a disclosure, please review the information about "Making a Report."  

Self-Care for Support People

Supporting a friend, student, family member, or colleague through an experience of sexual misconduct often has an impact on the helpers.  The Title IX Office is here to provide resources and support for the helpers and encourage community members to reach out.  Below are some articles to better understand this impact and ways to care for yourself: