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Sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking affect people beyond the victim-survivors who directly experience these behaviors. Friends and family of victim-survivors may also experience profound impacts.

For victim-survivors, friends and family can be important paths to wellness and feeling safe and secure. We know that the response from friends and family can make a profound difference in the likelihood that a victim-survivor will seek resources, formally report the incident, and take steps for self-care. This is why Curry College has dedicated this space to helping family and friends learn more about sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence and stalking. We also know that helping victim-survivors can be emotionally challenging and encourage friends and family to seek resources for themselves as well. 

  • Victim-survivors are more likely to tell friends and family than anyone else. This means that friends and family often provide the best opportunity for victim-survivors to get resources, care, and support. The same is true for victim-survivors of stalking, sexual harassment, and intimate partner violence.*
  • Among college students reporting intimate partner violence, approximately 40% indicated that their partner's abuse included threats to themselves, their family, or others.*
  • Friends and family who know an individual best can be very effective active bystanders. This is partly because they will spend so much time with each other. It's also true that friends and family may be best able to read social interactions that would be acceptable and unacceptable to their loved one.

Concerned friends and family are welcome to reach out to the College's Title IX Coordinator or a confidential resource, found on this page.

This web space also covers more information for friends and family of victim-survivors, including Resources for Friends and Family, How to Support a Victim Survivor, and Advice for Parents and Families. We hope you find these included below to be a helpful resource.

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*From the AAU Campus Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct.

It's important for friends and family members of college students to be informed and know how to get help for victim-survivors.  College students who experience sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking are more likely to tell friends and family about the incident than reporting it to an authority.*  

Fifty-eight percent of parents could not correctly identify the warning signs of abuse and the same percentage of college students say they don't know how to help someone in an abusive relationship†. That's okay. There are lots of confidential experts ready to help you so that you can help your friends and family. Supporting a victim-survivor is difficult work and you shouldn't do it alone. 

Friends and family of victim-survivors can use any of the resources on this website. While the resources will probably not be able to tell you if your friend of family member has contacted that resource, all of these resources can answer questions, help you think about how to talk to your friend or family member, and help you consider how to support your friend or family member.

These are some ways to be supportive of victim-survivors, both generally and if the victim-survivor is someone you know‡:

  • Learn how to recognize healthy relationships, abusive relationships, stalking, and reactions to sexual harassment/assault.
  • Listen to your friend/family member and be present to support them.
  • Help your friend/family member realize that the harm they're experiencing is not normal and not their fault.
  • Encourage your friend/family member to seek resources and role model that by using resources yourself.
  • If you friend/family member is having trouble feeling safe in their normal routine, suggest they consider interim support measures.
  • If the victim-survivor seeks medical attention or plans to report the incident, offer to go with them.
  • Help your friend/family member develop a safety plan.
  • Be patient. Recovering from trauma can be a long process, including periods where your friend/family member seems to be getting "worse." Your support is important.
  • Encourage your friend/family member to take care of themselves and role model this by taking care of yourself too. This is difficult for everyone.
  • Take seriously any thoughts about self-harm or suicide. Learn to recognize these signs and get resources to help.

*Report on the AAU Campus Study on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct
Cited from LoveIsRespect.org
‡Adapted from RAINN.org and LoveIsRespect.org

Victim-survivors are profoundly affected by the response of people who they tell about their experience of sexual misconduct. How friends, family, and others respond to that information can significantly affect the likelihood that the victim-survivor will seek other resources, consider reporting the incident, and get help with managing the effects of the incident(s) of sexual misconduct.  If someone tells you that they have experienced sexual misconduct, here are some ways to give a positive and helpful response.*

  • Believe what the victim-survivor is telling you and take it seriously.
  • Help the victim-survivor learn about and understand options, but do not make choices for them. Helping them make their own best choices (even if you believe you would make a different one) is an important part of restoring their sense of control.
  • If the person chooses to report, seek medical attention, or collect medical evidence, offer to go with them.
  • To the best of your ability, respect the level of confidentiality the person requests. If you have limits on the level of confidentiality you can provide, be clear about those as soon as possible and help the person seek confidential resources.
  • Use the same words that the person is using to describe the incident.  If they say, "bad experience," then use that same phrase.  Many people do not initially or ever label their experience as "rape" or "intimate partner violence."
  • Encourage the person to seek confidential support resources. Role model this by using resources yourself.
  • Learn warning signs of suicidal thoughts (like giving away possessions, withdrawing from friends and family, and talking about being unable to go on or cope with pain). If you see these, take them seriously. The National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7 at 800-273-TALK.

*Adapted from RAINN.org

All forms of sexual misconduct are among the most under-reported crimes and policy violations in any community. It's important to respect a victim-survivor's choice about whether they report to law enforcementCurry College, both, or neither. Additionally, it's important for us as a community to take steps to reducing barriers to reporting sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking.

These are some of the common reasons victim-survivors give for why they did not report to anyone (including confidential resources), along with some ways to effectively and appropriately address those concerns, while always respecting the victim-survivor's choices about how they address the incident(s).*

Reasons given for not reporting

Effective and appropriate responses

Many victim-survivors say they did not report because they did not believe the incident was serious enough. This includes incidents involving sexual assault with penetration.* (Many studies cite this as the most frequent reason for not reporting.)

Even before you know of someone who is a victim-survivor, you can demonstrate that sexual misconduct is a serious issue by being an active bystander. Ways to do this including confronting jokes or dismissive comments about sexual misconduct.  When someone tells you about an incident, take them seriously and say that such behavior is not acceptable. You can also tell a victim-survivor that if the incident is bothering them, it's at least serious enough to talk to a confidential resource, who can help them consider options.

Victim-survivors often say they believe reporting the incident would be too embarrassing or emotionally difficult.

It's important to acknowledge that these feelings are real for the person you're speaking with.  At the same time, gently remind them that sexual misconduct is never the fault of the person who experienced it.  This is another good time to remind the victim-survivor about the option to talk to confidential resources. If the person was sexually assaulted and/or has any physical injuries, this is also a good time to talk about the benefits of seeking medical help.

Victim-survivors may say they choose not to report because nothing will be done about it.

Revisit what "reporting" means.  The victim-survivor can disclose some details about the incident solely for the purpose of receiving medical treatment. The victim-survivor can use confidential resources for the purpose of their own healing and recovery. The victim-survivor can choose to report to law enforcement, Curry College, both, or neither. The victim-survivor should know that reporting to Curry College can be helpful if they want interim support measures, like adjustments to their class schedule, living situation, or other logistical needs. What will be done about it depends in part upon which people the victim-survivor chooses to inform.

Some victim-survivors are afraid of retaliation or other negative actions by the person who caused the original sexual misconduct or that person's friends/family.

Again, it's important to acknowledge these feelings in the person you're speaking with.  Remind them that confidential resources can help them with safety planning.  Gathering evidence can help them with a legal protective order if they want to seek one in the future. Reporting the incident to Curry College's Title IX Coordinator can be helpful if the victim-survivor needs changes to their living arrangements, class schedule, or other logistics in order to increase their safety. The Title IX Coordinator can also issue a no-contact order, including communicating to the person who caused the incident that retaliation is prohibited by Curry College and the law.

Victim-survivors may fear they will not be believed or that they will be accused of facilitating the incident of sexual misconduct.

This is another important moment to remind yourself and the victim-survivor that the person who experiences sexual misconduct is never to blame for the incident.  That responsibility belongs solely to the person who caused the harm.  It's also important to remind the person that there are resources especially designed to help victim-survivors and that the victim-survivor does not need to prove anything to use those resources, including confidential resources. Even before you know of any victim-survivors, you can help reduce this barrier by being an active bystander and taking sexual misconduct seriously as an incident in our community.

Sometimes, victim-survivors indicate they do not want to report an incident, because they do not trust the criminal justice system.

In this situation, help the victim-survivor understand that they have options beyond the criminal justice system.  They can choose to speak only with confidential resources.  They can choose to report the incident to Curry College. You can also mention that both confidential resources and Curry College can help with reporting to the criminal justice system, if they want to pursue that.

Victim-survivors may not want to report because they think their own behavior at the time will be viewed negatively.  This can be especially true if they are in a same-sex relationship or using drugs/alcohol. Since drugs/alcohol may also impair their memory, that may be another reason they are hesitant to report.

In this situation, it's important for victim-survivors to know that the incident(s) of sexual misconduct are not their fault and that you care about them.  Even if they don't remember the incident or don't want to share details, they can still talk to counselors and crisis counselors confidentially.  If they give this as a reason for not reporting to Curry College, explain to them that Curry College takes all reports of sexual misconduct seriously and has an amnesty policy for use of alcohol or other drugs.

If you're concerned that a friend or family member is experiencing intimate partner violence, one of the most important things you can do is offer your support. This topic can be difficult to discuss, but it's important to let victim-survivors know that it's okay to talk about. Here are some suggestions for letting someone know you're concerned about them and their relationship.*

  • Tell the person you are concerned about their relationship and that you are concerned for their safety.
  • Tell the person that they do not deserve to be abused and that the abuse is not their fault.
  • Be supportive and patient. People who experience abuse may find it difficult to talk about. Let them know you are there to listen anytime.
  • Avoid judging or criticizing the person's decisions in the relationship, including if they decide to stay with or go back to their partner.
  • Encourage the person to talk to confidential resources. Offer to help them do this, but let it be their decision to go and their decision exactly what to share.
  • Help the person develop a safety plan, whether they choose to stay in or end the relationship.
  • Do not confront the abusive person, especially during an act of violence. Call the police if you need to do so.
  • Remember that your most important role is to help the person experiencing abuse and help them to get resources.

*This list is adapted from Break the Cycle.

It's difficult to see someone you care about hurting other people. While the person causing harm is always responsible for their own actions, here are some ways to intervene safely* and help the person who is being abusive, as well as the person being abused.

*This list is adapted from Love Is Respect.org

For parents and other family members, knowing someone you love is affected by sexual harassment or assault, relationship violence, and/or stalking can be frightening. Remember that you can be a powerful force in helping your family member reduce their risk of these crimes and get help if they have already experienced them.

Here are some ways the parents and other family members can help victim-survivors.*

Before you suspect relationship violence, stalking, or sexual harassment/assault:

  • Learn the signs of healthy relationships, abusive relationships, stalking, and sexual harassment/assault.
  • In all your conversations, be open and allow your child/family member to ask questions. It's okay to say that you don't know how to answer a question. Respond with something like, "That's an important question and I don't know the answer. Let's find it together." Resources listed here can help you find answers.
  • Ask about the relationships your child/family member's friends are in. Ask your child/family member how they would support friends in a situation of abuse, assault, or stalking.
  • Talk to your child/family member about safe and healthy relationships.
  • Remind your child/family member that dating should be fun. They have a right to say no if something isn't fun for them, and they should respect anyone else's "no" too.
  • Talking to your child/family member about resources they would consult if they were concerned about themselves or someone else. Be understanding if they prefer a resource other than you.
  • Provide examples of healthy relationships, both in your own life and in media.
  • Point out unhealthy relationships or abuse and label them for what they are. Use those to talk about what your child/family member could do if they or someone they cared about experienced abuse or assault.
  • If your child/family member isn't receptive to discussing this the first time, don't give up, but don't push the conversation. Say something like, "It seems like you don't want to talk about this right now. That's okay. This is important, so we can discuss it again later."

If you suspect your child/family member is experiencing relationship violence, sexual harassment/assault, and/or stalking:

  • First, listen and give support. Believe what the person is telling you. This will encourage the victim-survivor to continue to trust you.
  • Tell the person that it is not their fault and they don't deserve this treatment.
  • Encourage the person to contact confidential resources.
  • Ask with concern about bruises, excessive contact with a partner, depression or anxiety, and reduced contact with friends and activities that are important.
  • Focus on the concerning behaviors, not the person doing them. The person you're speaking with may still be committed to their relationship with the person causing harm.
  • Resist the urge to order your child/family member to take certain actions. You may want to require they end a relationship or report an incident. For their long-term well-being, it's important that they regain control over what happens in their life.
  • Help your child/family member decide on next steps and offer to go with them as they begin those steps.
  • Role model the importance of getting support by using resources yourself.

*This list is adapted from LoveIsRespect.org

If someone you care about has an abusive partner, it can be difficult to understand that they might choose to stay in their abusive relationship at this time.  The decision to stay, however, is not unusual.  Ending abusive relationships can be difficult and, at times, dangerous. 

It's important to be sensitive to why people may have trouble leaving abusive relationships or getting help. Whatever their reason for staying, your support matters. Supporting someone in an abusive relationship can help them manage the relationship and can be helpful if they eventually choose to leave it. 

As you support your friend, it can be helpful to understand why people sometimes stay in abusive relationships.*

  • Your friend may not feel safe leaving the relationship, especially if their partner has threatened them.
  • Some people are mostly familiar with abusive relationships, so they may see their abusive relationship as normal.
  • Your friend may be afraid or embarrassed that they will be judged for their decision to stay in the relationship or begin it in the first place. This may be especially true if they are in a same-sex relationship, but not out generally.
  • Many abusers tell partners that the victim-survivor is to blame for the abuse or that the victim-survivor won't find a better partner. Your friend may believe their abuser and stay because they believe the abuse is their fault or that they don't deserve a better relationship.
  • Your friend may be pressured to stay in the relationship, depending upon how popular their partner is with family and friends.  Your friend may even think no one will believe them if they report the abuse.
  • If your friend has children, they may believe they should stay with their partner so that the children will have both parents, or your friend may be afraid of losing child custody if they choose to leave. 
  • Abusers try to isolate their partner from other friends and family. Because of this, by the time the victim-survivor recognizes the abuse, they may feel they have no friends or family they can turn to.
  • Your friend may be afraid to approach authorities, especially if they have a language barrier or immigration status that increases this fear.
  • The abuser may provide financial security, a home, or support for a disability. All of these can make it more difficult to leave an abusive relationship. 
  • Your friend may love their partner and hope the abuse will stop. Abusers often promise that they will change their behavior.

In all of these situations, your support as a friend can help the victim-survivor seek resources, consider options, and stay safe. As you help your friend, be sure you use resources for yourself too.

*Adapted from LoveIsRespect.org

More and more, people are starting relationships online or communicating online in their current relationship. Social media and other online communication are great tools, but they can also make it easier to stalk or abuse someone, including a partner. 

This page provides information about increasing safety for yourself and your friends in online interactions.  

Online abuse and stalking is not the fault of the person receiving the abuse, nor is the person being abused responsible for making it stop.  Those responsibilities lie with the person who stalks or causes other harm.  Those receiving abuse can, however, choose to take some steps to increase their safety and well-being and may want to do so. 

Increasing Your Own Safety*

  • Keep your passwords private. Do not share them with your partner or anyone else.
  • Think carefully about what you post, and talk to your friends about what you want them to post and keep private. Avoid posting your email address, phone number, address, or schedule. These are all keys for people who want to track you.
  • If you want to post about an event you attend, wait a couple of days. This will make it harder for someone to show up where you are when you don't want them to do so.
  • Check your privacy settings to be sure that you are comfortable with the settings. Here is information on how to do that from the following social media sites: Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter.
  • Turn off all requests for "access to your location."  People can use this to determine where you are.
  • Don't respond to abuse online, but do report it. All social media providers allow you to report harassment online.
  • Keep a record (including screen shots) of any online abuse. Read more about gathering evidence.
  • If your partner is abusive and has access to your devices, learn more about browsing safely to minimize what your partner sees.
  • Especially if you are leaving an abusive relationship, consider deactivating your account or doing a "super log-off" (deactivating your account when you are not actively on it). This will mean people cannot post about you during this time.
  • If you are meeting in-person with someone you met online, pick a public place to meet, tell a friend or family member about your plans, make a plan for how you'll get home safely, and hold off on revealing personal information. You can also look up the person online and verify information they've shared.

Helping  Friends Stay Safe†

  • Always ask for permission before you post about someone else or tag them. If you don't have permission, don't post it.
  • Especially do not post someone else's location. If you want to post about an event you attended together, wait until the event has been over for a day or more.
  • Respect any limits that your friend wants to set on their social media use or connections.
  • Ask your friend if they would like you to save texts or emails they have sent about their relationship.

*Adapted from RAINN.orgLoveIsRespect.org 
†Adapted from LoveIsRespect.org