I Want to Support Someone
Sexual misconduct affects more than just those with direct experience. As a parent, family member, roommate, friend and/or bystander your well-being is just as important to the healing process as is your support. Before you can provide support please make sure that any and all of your mental and emotional needs are met. Trauma affects all of those involved and if you are a student you are entitled to resources offered on campus. Employees who have been impacted by sexual misconduct are encouraged to access resources through SEAP (State Employee Assistance Program). If you are not a student, there are community resources that are available to you.
Tips for Supporting a Loved One
- Listen – survivors need someone who will listen. Throughout this process, survivors have to process emotions like anger, depression, and anxiety while, in some cases, dealing with legal actions like reporting. Listening to your loved one will bring a sense of comfort and may give survivors an escape from an unsettling process. Please remember that while silence may be uncomfortable, it may be exactly what a survivor needs. Do not be afraid of silence, embrace it.
- Remind them that it’s not their fault – it is key to remind your loved one that what happened was in no way their fault. Let your loved one know that they are respected for all decisions made before, during and after an incident of sexual misconduct.
- Let them know you care – survivors of sexual misconduct are vulnerable and need to be supported in the most positive way possible. Letting someone know you care means something different for each survivor. For some it may mean a lot of attention and for some it may mean just offering support once in a while to remind them that they are loved. Ensure you allow them the space to both ask for help and speak for themselves. To be sure that you are supporting your loved one in the best way possible, ask them. Gently remind them that you have their best interest in mind and want to support them in a way that makes them comfortable.
- Educate yourself – to best support a loved one, do your best to educate yourself on polices and resources at West Chester University. Please get familiar with the rest of our website and familiarize yourself with our Resources page.
- Question validity – it is key to accept all information coming from your loved one. Questioning the validity of an incident may not only loosen your ties with the individual but may also hinder any chances of them seeking further support.
- Minimize or maximize the incident – regardless of how you think your loved one should react, you don’t get to decide. Trauma affects everyone differently, validate all reactions both big and small. Do not attempt to sway your loved one’s opinion; only they can determine what occurred.
- Share any disclosed information – your loved one came to you with this incident because they trust you, don’t discredit that trust.
Parents & Families
We understand how difficult it may be for parents and family members to hear that a loved one has experienced an act of sexual misconduct. With that in mind, you can imagine how difficult it could have been for them to share that with you. Some conversations may make you uncomfortable as discussions regarding sexual activity will arise but please do your best to remain receptive to all and any conversation. If your loved one seems to be opening up to friends or other individuals more, do not take this personally and remain prepared to discuss the incident as they feel necessary.
Friends & Roommates
It is important for friends and roommates to be open to offer support in a variety of ways. Sometimes this may mean doing a leisure activity to help take their mind off of things. In some cases it may mean walking them to the Counseling Center. And for some friends, it may just mean offering a shoulder to lean on. Use your best judgment based on the relationship you have with your friend/roommate in deciding how they would want you to react.
In some cases the accused may be a mutual friend of yours. In situations like these it is key to remember that the survivor has also thought of that. If they have come forward to share their story it means that they feel comfortable sharing with you. Do your best to respect the wishes of the survivor regarding your contact with the accused. Changing dynamics within groups of friends can wear on all members of the group. Remember that your well-being is just as important as the survivor’s and that all campus resources are available to you as well. Please see our Resources page if you’d like further details.
If you witness an act of sexual misconduct or are the first person to interact with either the victim or accused, the most important thing is to ensure your safety and the safety of the survivor. Intervene only in situations where it is safe to do so. If you have been injured, seek medical attention. Regardless of your ability to intervene, you are strongly encouraged to call Public Safety (610-436-3311) for assistance. To the extent that you are able, direct the survivor to medical care and other support services which you can find on our resources page.
If you have witnessed an act of sexual misconduct we encourage you to fill out our sexual misconduct report form.
Faculty & Staff
Depending on your role on campus, you may experience a sexual misconduct disclosure by a student or colleague. To best support those who have disclosed to you, familiarize yourself with campus resources and policies, as well as your Title IX reporting obligations.
An important part in supporting a student survivor is to let them know about policies (like Title IX) that may require you to report the incident. Remember the policies that you need to abide by and be as open with the student as possible. It may be difficult for you to report as you feel you’re disregarding the wishes of the survivor but please remember that the policies are there for the well-being of the student and the overall campus climate. Please see our WCU employee FAQ page for further details.
Although conversations regarding sexual misconduct may be uncomfortable between you and a student or a colleague, be supportive and respect their willingness to open up to you. Let your student or colleague know about the resources offered on and off campus and encourage them to take care of both their physical and mental well-being. See our Resources page for more information.
Prevention & Training
Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response is a training available through the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for all students, faculty, and staff. Please visit the training website to learn more.
The Center for Women and Gender Equity coordinates campus wide violence prevention initiatives designed to engage all members of the University community, offers opportunities to examine the ways in which gender-based oppression intersects with other forms of systemic oppression, and provides support and resources for individuals impacted by harm. CGWE also facilitates Step Up! a prosocial behavior and bystander intervention program that educates students to be proactive in helping others.