Supporting Someone Accused of Sexual Assault
If a friend or someone you know confides in you that he or she has been accused of sexual assault, it may be hard to know what to do next. You are likely struggling with your own questions and mixed emotions about the situation and may be unsure how to respond.
Know that it is natural for you to feel conflicted regarding your response, but also know that simply providing advice and emotional support in no way condones the alleged behavior, but represents a simple act of compassion and care for your friend.
Chances are if your friend has told you that he or she has been accused of a sexual assault, that person may be turning to you for help and support. Here are some ways that you can help:
- Provide resources
- Encourage your friend to consult with professionals in the Women's Center and in the Office of the Dean of Students. These offices can provide resources to any student charged with a sexual assault. Connecting your friend with these resources will help provide the support and information they need to better understand and work through the process ahead.
- Recommend counseling
- Your friend may find it helpful to process the emotions and difficulties they are experiencing as a result of the charge with a confidential third-party. The University's Counseling and Psychological Services in Student Health can be of assistance in providing this vital support to students going through this experience.
- Get educated on the issue of sexual assault
- Increasing your own understanding of sexual assault and sexual violence may help you to process your own feelings about the incident as well as assist your friend with the process that may be ahead.
- Provide a non-judgmental listening ear. Again, this does not mean that you need to affirm or condone your friend’s alleged behavior, but simply that you will provide a compassionate ear as they attempt to work through this difficult experience.
- Respect privacy and confidentiality
- Don't share your friend's story with others.
- Don't forget to support yourself
- As with supporting a survivor, supporting a friend through a trauma can be a difficult and emotionally draining experience for those in the support role as well. Recognize this and don’t hesitate to seek help and support for yourself when you need it. You cannot effectively support your friend without being mindful of your own health and well-being.
For the Parents of a Student Accused of Sexual Assault
If you learn that your son or daughter has been accused of sexual assault under the University of Virginia's policy you can contact the Office of the Dean of Students to access resources and to talk about how you can best support your student through this difficult experience.