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Helping a Friend as an Active Bystander

If you're worried about your friends' behavior or actions, don't be afraid to bring it up. Staying silent simply enables the behavior. For example, in the case of a problem drinker, many recovering alcoholics attribute their initial awareness of their drinking problem to the intervention of a friend or family member. The following five-point formula will provide some guidelines on what to say as well as how to handle denial and what to do if nothing happens. If others who share your concern join you in this effort, there is a greater possibility for success.

Get Grounded: Step Up!

Tips, procedures, University and national resources for stepping up and helping out.

Resources for Students

Questions for Students

What do I do if I think my friend is in an abusive relationship? What will happen when I do that?

If you think a friend may be in an abusive relationship and want to confidentially talk to someone about your concerns you have several resources available to you. You can call Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the Office of the Dean of Students (ODOS), or the Women's Center. You can also do so anonymously if you prefer, or share names if you think it could be helpful. The contact information for each of these resources can be found on Resources for Students.

The concerns you share with these professionals will be confidential unless there is an imminent risk to your safety, the safety of the person of concern, or the safety of those in the community.

What do I do if I think my friend is depressed or suicidal?

If you think a friend may be depressed or suicidal and want to share your concerns with someone, you can call or visit CAPS or the Office of the Dean of Students. The contact information for each of these resources can be found on Resources for Students.

What do I do if I or a friend has been sexually assaulted or raped?

If you or someone you know believes they have been sexually assaulted or raped, you can contact Dean Nicole Eramo in the Dean of Students Office or one of the staff in the Women's Center's Sexual and Domestic Violence Services (SDVS) to discuss the support and options that are available to you.  In addition, CAPS has specially trained counselors who can assist you. If you prefer to contact someone outside of UVA, community resources are available at the Sexual Assault Resource Agency or the Shelter for Help in Emergency.

What do I do if I think my friend has an eating disorder?

If you are concerned that a friend may be struggling with an eating disorder and want to share your concerns with someone, you can call or visit CAPS or the Office of the Dean of Students. The contact information for each of these resources can be found on Resources for Students. You can also refer to the "Talking to a Friend with Disordered Eating" brochure (PDF) or view additional resources available to you through the Coalition on Eating Disorders.

What do I do if I think my friend has an alcohol or other substance abuse issue?

If you think a friend may have an alcohol or other substance abuse issue and want to share your concerns with someone, you can call or visit CAPS, the Gordie Center for Alcohol and Substance Education (Gordie CASE), or the Office of the Dean of Students. The contact information for each of these resources can be found on Resources for Students.

What do I do if I have experienced or witnessed a bias incident?

If you have experienced a bias incident, your health and safety is the first concern. If you have been hurt or need immediate assistance, don't hesitate to call 911. You also have counseling resources available to you at CAPS or ODOS. Contact information is available on Resources for Students.

Additionally, the University encourages anyone who experiences or witnesses a bias incident to report it as soon as possible. You can file a report. A dean on call will respond promptly (typically within 24 hours) to any person who files a bias complaint.