As a faculty or staff member, you are particularly well situated to help students who have experienced sexual violence. You are likely someone who students look up to and respect, and your guidance and support during a difficult time could be invaluable.
Although there is no single “right” way to help a student who has experienced sexual violence, below are some guidelines for identifying students who are struggling and offering them support.
Signs that a Student Might Need Help
Sexual violence can affect many areas of one’s life. Therefore, people who have experienced sexual violence may exhibit a range of behaviors. Generally speaking, though, students who are in emotional distress following an episode of sexual violence might:
- Demonstrate a sudden change in class attendance, marked by excessive absences or excessive tardiness
- Demonstrate a change in classroom participation patterns, marked by either decreased participation or increased and disruptive participation
- Demonstrate diminishing interest in and/or ability to complete course assignments
- Seem down or lethargic
- Seem anxious, irritable, or hyperactive
- Demonstrate a change in attire or personal hygiene
- Undergo a noticeable weight loss or gain
- Articulate feelings of hopelessness
- Make implicit or overt reference to suicide–in face-to-face communication or in written assignments
What You Can Do
If you notice that a student is exhibiting these behaviors, you can offer support in several ways:
- By initiating communication with general questions about the student’s well-being–“How have you been lately?” – “You seem anxious/down/distracted; is everything okay?”
- By identifying yourself as a general support person–“I’m available to talk if you need anything”
- By pointing your student toward general wellness resources, like Counseling Services 910.630.7150.
Even if a student is not ready to disclose sexual violence, and you are not sure that a student has experienced sexual violence, you can still establish yourself as a caring adult who is ready and willing to listen. While you would not want to put words in a student’s mouth–by insisting, for example, that they have experienced sexual violence–you can still make a positive difference just by identifying yourself as a concerned party who is paying attention.
If a student has disclosed sexual violence, you can offer support in several ways:
- By affirming the student. We live in a culture in which victims of sexual violence are routinely doubted, undermined, and blamed for their own victimization. Simply believing goes a long way in this context.
- By making sure that the student is not facing ongoing danger. If the student feels that their danger is persistent, you can direct them to contact Campus Security (910.630.7577).
- By directing the student to resources specific to sexual violence. The student should choose the resources that are most appropriate. It is important that the student take the lead in determining the course of action. You can share knowledge with a student, but you shouldn’t make the decisions.
- By helping the student to understand the reporting process on campus and the potential benefits of reporting. Again, you can encourage the student to file a formal report, but the decision is up to the student. Reporting takes a lot of courage, and should be the decision of the student.
Some Things to Think About
First and foremost, the University does not expect faculty or staff members to offer counseling to students. As already noted, Methodist University’s Counseling Services offers many resources for those who have experienced sexual violence.
All Methodist University employees, except those explicitly designated as confidential resources, are considered Responsible Employees. This means that they are required to inform a Title IX Coordinator (within 24 hours) of any instance of sexual or gender-based harassment/violence of which they gain knowledge. For more information about what it means to be a Responsible Employee, visit our Get Help page.
|Mr. Matthew Dempster
|Dr. William Walker
|Dr. Todd Harris
- Director of Institutional Compliance & Title IX: Mr. Matthew Dempster, 910.630.7558, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Methodist University Police: 7577 (24 hours)
- Dean of Students, Dr. William H. Walker, 910.630.7030, email@example.com
- Senior Associate Dean of Students, Dr. Todd Harris, 910.630.7155, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Methodist University Public Safety/Welcome Center, 910.630.7098 (24 hours)
- Methodist University Police, 7577 (24 hours)
- Methodist University Student Health Services: 910.630.7164
- Cape Fear Valley Medical Center Emergency Room: 910.615.8000