When someone you know confides in you that he or she has been accused of sexual misconduct, 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 of how best 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 that person.
Here are some ways that you can help:
Encourage them to consult with professionals in the Office of Community Standards, Residence Life or Student Outreach & Support. These offices can provide resources to any student accused of or charged with a sexual misconduct. Encouraging a connection to these resources will help provide the support and information they need to better understand and work through the process ahead.
The person accused of sexual misconduct may find it helpful to process the emotions and difficulties they are experiencing as a result of the charge with a confidential third-party. SJU’s Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can be of assistance in providing this vital support to students going through this experience.
Provide a non-judgmental listening ear. Again, this does not mean that you need to affirm or condone the alleged behavior, but simply that you will provide a compassionate ear as they attempt to work through this difficult experience.
Don’t forget to support yourself
As with supporting a survivor of sexual assault, supporting anyone 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 others without being mindful of your own health and well-being.
Adapted from the University of Virginia, www.virginia.edu