Respect the Survivor

Recently, legislation has been proposed that would take away the current rights of a sexual assault survivor on a college campus. New legislation would require universities to involve the police in all sexual assault cases being reported to the campus.

Why is this a negative? Currently, a survivor who is not comfortable moving forward with a potential criminal case in the courts can still seek a judicial process on campus – through Title IX which states that all students should have a safe and equal opportunity to learn and exist on campus. Such a judiciary process on campus is not a criminal case. No one is being charged with sexual assault. The goal is to insure a safe campus learning environment for all – equal access to education for everyone.

New proposed legislation would state that if a student did officially report to the campus, that the campus must notify the authorities. Imagine what this will do to the current numbers of survivors coming forward. If you as a survivor know coming forward could result in a criminal investigation and you are not comfortable with that possibility, you are very unlikely to come forward. Thus the survivor does not get the chance to live in a safe campus environment and the entire campus is at a higher risk not being in a safe learning environment.

Imagine being a survivor being force told relive what happened to you against your wishes. For any legislation to go against a survivor’s wishes is cruel.

We need to respect the survivor and what the survivor feels comfortable doing or not doing. It isn’t any one’s our jobs to push a survivor to do what WE think is right. Our job is to be there to support each survivor. How do we help support survivors?

  1. Listen. When something this traumatic happens, talking to someone can be part of the healing process. If a survivor comes to you, thank the survivor for trusting you. Listen. Don’t ask questions. Listen.
  2. Don’t offer to fix things. Ask the survivor how you can be of support.
  3. Don’t pressure. Don’t pressure any survivor to do something the survivor doesn’t want to do. Forcing a survivor to involve the police or authorities when the survivor doesn’t want to can often make the situation worse. Some survivors are not ready to talk or don’t want to.
  4. Be Compassionate. Sometimes you may think you know the right course of action for the survivor to take and if the survivor isn’t listening to you, it may frustrate you. Remember, this is the survivor’s life. The survivor gets to make the choices. Not you. If you show your frustration, you could hurt the survivor from wanting to talk any more – to anyone.
  5. Thank you for sharing. Thank the survivor for sharing with you and trusting you. The survivor has entrusted you and should feel comfortable knowing you will honor the survivor’s confidentiality at all times.
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