Someone you know and care about has survived an act of interpersonal violence that has temporarily stripped all his/her personal power and left behind feelings of fear and helplessness. These are perfectly normal responses. It takes time and support to work through feelings associated with this type of trauma, but there are many ways you can help.
Helping someone through a traumatic event is difficult, here is some information to help guide you. These support guidelines will be useful; no matter what your relationship is to the victim.
Signs a student may have experienced interpersonal violence
Victims of interpersonal violence respond to the experience in varying ways and may suffer from a variety of difficulties. Many survivors appear to themselves and others to have their feelings under control, only to become extremely upset again within a short time. Some of these reactions may be short-lived; others can be troubling for months or years following the incident.
A survivor might experience any or all of the following reactions:
- Emotional shock
- Intrusive memories or thoughts about the incident
- Inability to work or make decisions
- Impaired relationships
- Anger and irritability
- Social withdrawal
- Impaired memory
- Psychological disorders
- Substance abuse
- Weight gain or loss, eating difficulties/disorders
- Emotional detachment, loss of caring
- Difficulty with concentration
- Hyper vigilance
- Heightened startle response
- Panic attacks
What you can do to help
Safety first: Always keep safety in mind as you interact with a distressed student. If you have
any concern for the safety of your student or yourself, call University Police at
607-777-2393 or 911 immediately.
Journal entries/reports from other students: In some cases, you'll hear about the distressed student from someone else or through classroom assignments such as journal entries. If you have a good rapport with the student, invite him/her to talk to you or to consult with the University Counseling Center at 607-777-2772.
Avoid escalation; be sensitive and supportive: Victims of interpersonal violence have experienced a traumatic event that results in an intense loss of power. Create an environment of safety and let the student know it's safe to talk to you and that you'll listen without judgment and believe him/her. The student has chosen to speak to you because he/she trusts you. Don't press for details and let the student decide what steps, if any, to take. Remind the student that what happened wasn't his/her fault.
Don't assume you're being manipulated: The victim of interpersonal violence won't appear distressed simply to get attention or relief from responsibility. He/she will typically exhibit emotional responses consistent with those listed above. Listen to and believe the student. Refer him/her to appropriate resources for help.
Know your limits: As sympathetic and understanding as you may be, some students will need much more emotional support than you can provide. Referrals to professional counseling services are an important step for recovery. The University Counseling Center is available to help at 607-777-2772.
Explain further options to the student
- Explain the importance of examination for injury, pregnancy, disease prevention and possible evidence collection (especially if the assault was drug facilitated).
- Tell the student there are trained personnel who can be contacted and will be supportive at the hospital should they choose medical attention.
- Do not try to convince the student to report the assault; only inform them that a variety of options exist, including criminal and/or judicial action and/or no action at all. For resources on filing a report, click here. For further information, they may consult with University Police.
Counseling and other support
- Inform the student that University counseling support is available 24 hours a day, either by calling the University Counseling Center or through Crime Victims Assistance Center Visit the how and when to refer students to counseling page for more information.
- Inform the student that crime victim advocates are available by contacting Dean of Students Case Management or the Crime Victims Assistance Center; Advocates can assist students with obtaining needed information and assistance. Look to our role of an advocate page for more information on advocate services.
- Interpreter services may be obtained through friends of the student. If additional interpreter services are needed, the International Student and Scholar Services Office may be able to provide information on finding an interpreter. Contact the office at 607-777-2510, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Another resource is the American Civic Association in Binghamton at 607-723-9419.
Helpful information for friends, family and faculty
- Binghamton University Sexual Assault Protocol
- NYS Intimate Partner Violence on College Campuses: Information for parents
- NYS Intimate Partner Violence on College Campuses: Information for students
Visit our resources page for additional on and off campus assistance.