Helping a victim of recent sexual harassment or violence

This is for someone who has just experienced sexual harassment or violence.

Before approaching the individual…

  1. Control your emotions
    1. As obvious as this sound, people often go into these situations panicking, flustered, or emotionally distressed. This does not help the victim! If you are not calm or if you are nervous, it is perhaps best to ask someone else to step in. This does not mean that you cannot have an emotional reaction to the crime, it just means you have to control it
    2. Having a calm voice will be key to helping the victim calm down once you approach the situation
  2. Control the environment
    1. The victim is number 1 priority. Do not escalate the situation by drawing attention to the situation. This includes clearing the area of anyone who is not calm or anyone who is just curious or not involved in the incident
  3. Gather information
    1. If the incident was reported to you, gather all the information you can about the incident (who, what, when, where)
  4. Have a buddy system
    1. Have one person that is ready/comfortable enough to confront the situation and can give 100% attention to the victim
    2. Have another person who will be controlling the environment, gathering information, and calling 911 if needed. This person is important because you do not want the person talking to the individual to become distracted or have to deal with another person (i.e. an angry or concerned friend)

While talking to the victim…

  1. If the victim is having a panic attack, DO NOT tell the him/her to calm down
    1. How to help someone having a panic attack (not all tips may be relevant. Everyone deals and reacts to a panic attack differently)
    2. Definition and Symptoms of a panic attack: “Panic is experiencing an intense rush of fear or anxiety, which often leads to physical symptoms, such as a racing heart or sweating. If a person doesn’t realise that these physical symptoms are a result of their anxiety, they can become even more anxious because they’re not sure why they’re experiencing these symptoms. The increase in their anxiety level causes their symptoms to get more intense, which makes them feel even more anxious, causing their symptoms to get even more intense… and so on. This is known as entering into a ‘cycle of panic,’ or a panic attack.”
  2. Be prepared for any kind of reaction
    1. Everyone reacts differently. Be prepared for any reaction and any change of reaction. Even no emotional reaction can be a sign of shock.
  3. Make the environment comfortable for the survivor
    1. Ask if he/she is comfortable with you there (i.e. if he/she would like a person of a different gender)
    2. Ask if he/she is comfortable in that environment (i.e. moving to a more private location or a place where it is more comfortable to sit)
  4. Let the survivor set the pace
    1. Do not focus on finding out the details and figuring out what happened. He/she may be too traumatized at the moment, not comfortable, or does not remember.
      1. Avoiding opening the conversation with questions such as “what happened?” or “do you remember what happened?”
    2. Actively listen.
      1. In order to be fully present with the survivor you must have your full attention on him/her. Pay careful attention to the survivor when he/she is speaking to understand the complete message. Show that you are listening and then provide feedback by reflecting what has been said and asking questions.
    3. Do not let the survivor believe it was his/her fault
      1. It is never the survivor’s fault!
      2. People who experience sexual harassment and violence might say “it was my fault” “I shouldn’t have done this” or “if only I had____.” Let this person know that his/her actions were not the cause
    4. Continually check that the person is comfortable in the environment
      1. The person might start to feel uncomfortable sitting or standing in the current environment and may need a change of pace
  5. Refer to other resources
    1. The person may not know what to do right away. Referring to this person to people who can help and reminding them that there is professional help is important
      1. Make sure the help is wanted. Verbal confirmation for specifics is required.
        1. This includes situations such as hospitalization, calling the police, and reaching out to professional counseling
    2. Issues of mandatory reporting is listed
      1. All incidents regardless of level of variance must be reported to first the Executive Board for crisis management
        1. Should the individual require privacy or want as little people involved, the UVSA-Midwest President will be the main point of contact
      2. The UVSA-Midwest Executive Board will start the due process with all involved parties
        1. Authorities and hotel staff will be notified should it be warranted
        2. The appropriate actions will be in placed, but not limited to
          1. Removal from premises
          2. No longer welcomed to UVSA-Midwest or its partners events and placed on a blacklist
          3. Legal action