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Coping after Bias Motivated Incidents

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Bias-motivated incidents are a reality for many of our students and can range from microaggressions to acts of physical violence. As members of a diverse community at UVa and as allies to each other, we must work together to take care of ourselves and support each other.

Here are some tips and important things to remember as we cope, learn, and keep striving toward a safer and more inclusive UVa community:

  • Mixed emotions can be expected: It’s ok to have many types of emotions and you might even feel different things at different times. We can expect a wide array of responses: feeling unsafe both physically and emotionally, feeling targeted, feeling insignificant or invalidated, anger, shock, sadness, confusion, hopelessness, as well as, a desire to come together as a community and speak out about injustice and fight for change, just to name a few. You might also feel heightened awareness around your racial/ethnic identity or other aspects of your identity and/or question or feel differently about your surroundings.
  • Acknowledge individual and community impact: Do not underestimate the collective impact of violence or discrimination on a community. Whether students or other UVa community members were directly connected to the people involved in an incident or not, there can be a radiating effect throughout the community.
  • Make sure to take care of yourself:
    • As it turns out, being kind to ourselves is a prerequisite for being able to care for others. – Brene Brown
    • Take care of the basics including eating healthfully, getting exercise, and getting enough sleep.
    • Self-care can take many forms: taking more breaks while studying, connecting more often with family, taking on less commitments, taking a walk, or sitting under a tree on the Lawn. Find what feels nurturing to you.
    • Practice self-compassion. You may not be as efficient as you are used to and you might need more time or help to complete tasks. It’s ok! Just plan accordingly and ask for support when needed.
  • Being in community: Being with like-minded others can help you feel validated and remind you that you are not alone. Check in with one another. Even when you don’t know the “right” thing to say, just being with each other during difficult times can be very powerful.
  • Find friends and allies: Locate people who DO care, who support you, value who you are, and want to stand alongside you.
  • Get active: In moments in which we may feel powerless, it is important to find ways to have a voice. You could find ways to get involved in activism, join organizations, attend events, talk to others about what you value, or work toward others’ human rights.
  • Remember the big picture: Forging a movement perspective can help you recognize that any one event or any one challenge is just one piece of a larger human and civil rights movement and help it feel less like it is about you as an individual.
  • Same goal, different perspectives: While the goals around social justice and inclusion may be shared, members of a community, as well as, allies may have differing ideas and perspectives on how to reach those goals. Listen to one another, respect the potentially varying needs of different members, and work together as a community.
  • Get support: There are many types of support. You might find yourself needing to advocate for yourself for academic help, needing a listening ear, or wanting to spend time with someone who can help distract you. If you find yourself in high distress, or you think it could be helpful to talk to someone about how to make sense of your feelings and learn how to navigate these experiences, CAPS is here for you.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
Elson Student Health on the corner of Brandon and JPA
434-243-5150 Daytime
434-297-4261 After-hours emergency line

To request an outreach program or training for your department or to partner with CAPS please contact Nicole Fischer, CAPS Assistant Director for Outreach, at 243-5150 or

Or visit

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