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Stop Sexual Assault

Supporting Survivors

Having a Conversation

Students may disclose traumatic events — including sexual assault — to employees for a variety of reasons. If a student shares this troubling news with you, it’s important that you know how to have an appropriate, compassionate conversation with them. Your response may have an enormous impact on the student’s decision to seek further help and on their recovery.





  • Don’t make any statements or ask questions that blame the student for the assault (e.g., questioning the student’s behavior, style of dress, use of alcohol, etc.).
  • Don't ask probing questions.
  • Don’t lecture the student.
  • Do not tell the student you don’t believe them.


What you can say


If you believe a student may be about to disclose an interpersonal violence incident

During a conversation, you may become aware that a student is going to disclose an interpersonal violence incident. To allow that student the option of maintaining anonymity, tell the student about confidential resources before they continue. You might say:

“It sounds like something is really affecting you. While I want to listen, I also need to explain that there are certain things students tell me that I have to report to the university. These include reports of sexual assault, stalking and intimate partner violence. I want to support you, but in order to remain anonymous, you can instead talk to a confidential resource in our counseling center, sexual assault and relationship violence prevention office or health center.”  

If a student has disclosed an interpersonal violence incident

When a student tells you they have been sexually assaulted, stalked or experienced relationship violence, you should listen without passing judgment, tell the student you’re required to report the incident and refer them to resources that can help. Some phrases to use are:

  • “I believe this happened and I am here to support you.”
  • “I know that was really difficult to share. Thank you for sharing with me.”
  • “I need to explain that as an employee, I have a responsibility to report incidents like this to the university so that they can help protect you and our campus community.”
  • “There are confidential offices on campus that can help; would you like their information?” or “Would it help if I took you to/gave you information for a confidential resource here on campus?”

If the student is interested in seeking help from campus resources, offer to let them use your office phone to call, or walk with them to the office of their choice. If the student doesn’t want to visit one of those offices, offer them a flier, contact card or simply the office phone number. Either way, you are obligated to report the incident. If you are unsure about how to report the incident, you may call Equal Opportunity Programs at 803-777-3854 or Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention & Prevention at 803-777-8248 for assistance with this process.

Stop Sexual Assault

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