During the course of your time at NCSU, you may have a student disclose to you that they are a survivor of sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking. There are many reasons students may disclose to you – they may be asking for emotional support, asking for extra time or consideration in a class or program you run, or wondering where to go for resources. This situation may be recent, a long time in the past or ongoing.
Research shows that the response of the person to whom a survivor makes an initial disclosure has a significant effect on their healing process. The most important thing you can do is believe the survivor, listen non-judgmentally, provide support, and share information about resources.
The Women’s Center is a confidential resource that can assist in processing their experience and navigating various resources and systems. Other Campus Resources include:
Some Things to Consider:
The student may not want you to solve the problem. If the student has experienced interpersonal violence, their power has been taken away. The best thing we can do is to share resources and empower them to make their own choices.
There may be cultural issues that affect the way a student responds. Religion, race, ethnicity, disability, gender, national origin and sexual orientation all play a significant role in a person’s response to interpersonal violence.
The student may tell you what they did to provoke the incident as a way of blaming themselves, such as “because I drank too much…” or “because I made him mad…” If the student told someone else, such as a friend, roommate or family member, that person may have blamed them as well. We can help by giving them messages that counter this blame – “It wasn’t your fault. No matter what you did, no one deserves for this to happen to them.”
The student may have fear of judgment. Talking about their trauma often makes survivors uneasy and heightens their sense of wariness. It is important that you remain open, free from judgment. It doesn’t matter what they were wearing, that they were alone, if they were drinking, etc. They did not deserve what happened to them.
The student may have concerns about what will happen to the assailant. Most types of violence happen between people who know each other; it is more likely than not that the survivor cared for the assailant in some way.
The student may be worried that many other people will find out. This fear is one of the most significant reasons a student leaves school after a situation of interpersonal violence occurs. Remind them that you are a mandated reporter and you are willing to listen, and that there are confidential resources on campus as well.
Common Reactions Following a Traumatic Event:
Note: These reactions are common for many survivors; yet each person’s journey is different.
Difficulty concentrating or focusing. This can often affect academics significantly, both in class and in completing assignments.
Trying to go about one’s normal routine as if everything is OK
Sleep and eating disturbance.
Flashbacks (feeling of reliving the event), intrusive memories (can’t stop thinking about the event) and nightmares
Withdrawal from people and places in one’s life