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Helping Each Other in Difficult Times


Text of the video (and a few more thoughts)

Individually and collectively we have been deeply affected by the events of the past few weeks and of this Fall semester. Feelings range from sadness, to anger, to disappointment and betrayal. We are concerned for the well-being of survivors who have lived through the horror of sexual assault. We are also grieving the loss of four students, all from the second-year class. Simply put, our community is hurting. Of course, this further intensifies end-of-the-semester stress around exams, papers, and the holidays.

As we finish up the semester, it is important that we are vigilant about watching out for one another. Although you may not even be aware, you will cross paths every day with people who are struggling – friends, classmates, and casual acquaintances. Please make it a guiding value in the upcoming days and weeks to check in with one another – even those who you do not know well. “How are you holding up?” is a simple question that can make a meaningful connection. These connections can help our community become closer and sustain one another.

We hope the below thoughts will be helpful in that effort:

  • Ask, don’t wonder. If you find yourself wondering if someone you know (or don’t know) is OK, just ask her or him, “How are you doing?”
  • Try for a “more-than-one-word answer.” If you get the obligatory “Fine,” invite the person to say more. It might be helpful to follow up with, “It is an intense time on Grounds – how has it been for you?”
  • Name what you see. If someone you know seems different in demeanor or behavior, it can be helpful to share what you are noticing: “You’ve been more quiet than usual. How are you doing?” or “You weren’t in class today. I was concerned about you.”
  • Who do you not see? Take notice of who is missing in your classes, activity groups, and residences. If you notice that anyone is missing, give that person a call or in-person visit (or use whatever means is available to you).
  • Check in with at least one person with whom you would not “normally” check in. Reaching out to people who are not in your very close circles can be uncomfortable and awkward. Do it anyway. We need to be giving one another all the support we can muster at this difficult time.
  • Be boundary-sensitive. As you reach out to one another, remember that far too many of our friends and colleagues have experiences with sexual assault. If you sense that the topic of sexual assault is overwhelming to the person you are trying to support, give that person some space to not talk. It may be more helpful to check in a day or so later with something like, “I just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking about you and am here if you want to talk.”
  • Use your resources. If you encounter a situation that you are not sure how to handle, you can call or walk in to CAPS for a consultation. A counselor will help you problem-solve, figure out what to say, or explain how to refer the person to a professional counselor.

And don’t forget to take care of yourself:

  • Use your support system. Know that the best way to maintain stability is to seek support from your community (friends, family, mentors, RAs, university staff and faculty). So, talk together. Be together. Share together. The support you need during this time lies in your relationships.
  • Maintain your routine. Get to class even if you struggle to focus. It is important to maintain normalcy when things feel abnormal.
  • Get exercise. Even short walks help us to process stress.
  • Sleep and eat healthy. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and you’re eating healthfully, even if you don’t think you have enough time. You’ll need your energy and ability to focus to be efficient, present, and to finish the semester strong.
  • Take breaks from thinking about your worries. While it is important to talk with one another about how you are feeling, it is equally important that you take breaks from thinking about your worries. Find a mindless activity that can help distract you temporarily such as watching a movie, taking a walk, or spending time with a friend.
  • Tend to your inner life. If you are religious, then pray. If you practice mindfulness, then meditate. If you find comfort in the environment, spend time outside with friends.

CAPS is here to support students, faculty and staff at this challenging and important time for our community. We are all impacted by sexual assault on our Grounds, and CAPS is available for consultation and counseling with students who have endured such experiences. CAPS also consults with friends, family, staff and faculty, who are directly or indirectly affected through knowing UVa or non-UVa students who have gone through sexual assault, or those who are affected by the impact to our community in general. Call us to talk about your concerns or schedule a meeting.

CAPS can be reached at 243-5150 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. After hours, a CAPS counselor can be reached at 972-7004. CAPS is located in Elson Student Health at the corner of Jefferson Park and Brandon avenues.

For guidelines faculty and staff may find helpful in addressing issues of sexual assault, click here.

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