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Interpersonal Violence

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 your reporting obligations and confidential resources before they continue. You might say:

“It sounds like something is really affecting you. I am here to support, and I 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 relationship or intimate partner violence. If you do not want the incident reported, I can connect you with a confidential resource in University Health Services.”  

If a student has disclosed an interpersonal violence incident

When a student tells you they have been sexually assaulted or 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.”
  • “There are confidential offices on campus that can help; would it be helpful to have their information?” or “Would it help if I walked with you or 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 contact information for the office. 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.

Interpersonal Violence

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