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Supporting Victims/Survivors

We use the language “victims/survivors” to acknowledge individuals may identify with different terminology and identities related to their experience. We encourage people to mirror and reflect the language someone uses, which may include “victim,” “survivor,” or other terminology.

When an individual discloses an experience of gender-based violence with someone else, that person’s response can have a significant impact on the individual’s healing process. A person’s response could impact whether they reach out for additional help and support. Sometimes individuals may disclose to someone in person, while others may share openly about their experience through an online platform or public opportunity to speak out.

Any individual can experience gender-based violence, regardless of their identities. Unfortunately, individuals of marginalized communities often face higher rates of gender-based violence and can face additional difficulties in seeking help and support. Violence intersects with the different identities an individual holds and can impact how someone experiences violence and/or harassment, responds to trauma, accesses help and support, makes decisions about reporting, or moves forward in their coping and healing.

Whether you are a friend, family member, Resident Advisor, professor, or staff member, there are things you can do and say to support an individual who discloses an incident to you. Make sure you are listening to the survivor when they are sharing their story, validate their experience and let them know you believe them, and try to support their decisions surrounding their situation. It is incredibly important to respect an individual’s decisions in what help and support they seek and to let them lead the way in their coping and healing.

If a victim/survivor displays any suicidal or self-harming behaviors or if you are worried about they safety or well-being, you should seek professional crisis assistance immediately. You can also:

  • Tips for Family and Friends

    What can I expect?
    The initial shock following a crime, sudden death, or other trauma is a harsh and painful reality for everyone involved.  However, everyone reacts differently when faced with crisis.  Some common reactions may include:

    • Shock, disbelief, numbness
    • Anxiety, panicky feelings
    • Feeling lost, difficulty concentrating
    • Irritability, tearfulness, or anger
    • Blaming, self-doubt, guilt
    • Sleeping disturbances, loss of appetite
    • Flashbacks, unwanted memories
    • Depression and sadness
    • Withdrawal and isolation
    • Relationship problems
    • Unexplained physical pain
    • Confusion, gaps in memory
    • Difficulty making decisions
    • Decreased ability to concentrate or focus, feeling distracted
    • Disassociation with surroundings

    To learn more about trauma, please consider these resources:
    Help Guide: Emotional and Psychological Trauma
    RAINN: Sexual Violence Effects

    More Support Tips for Friends and Family

    What can Family and Friends Do?
    Remember that your loved one has just experienced a stressful event, regardless of how they may be acting now. 

    • Listen carefully to them.
    • Allow them to share what they are feeling.
    • Do what you can to help them feel safe.
    • Avoid statements that may make the victim feel they were to blame for the crime.
    • Reassure them that it was not their fault.
    • Allow them to take control back over their own lives and be there to support them.

    People wo care about the victims can often feel stress too.  Do not be afraid to seek help for your own needs.

  • Tips for Employees

    As a faculty or staff member, you might be the person a student or colleague trusts to share their experience. It can be difficult to know someone who has experienced gender-based violence. It is important to remember they may have had their power and control taken away from them during the experience. You can help them start to regain control by listening to them, asking if they would like information and options, and always respect their decisions.

    You should let the person disclosing know if you are a mandatory reporter for the school and/or a  Campus Security Authority. Being transparent about your level of confidentiality is important to allowing the victim/survivor to choose the path they are most comfortable with.

    Everyone reacts and heals differently after experiencing a traumatic event. It is important to remember there is no time limit on their healing, and to continue to be supportive while they continue to process and heal. The best course of action to help someone is to ask them what they need and offer to connect them with professional support. Below are suggestions for ways to navigate how to help:


    • Believe what they tell you, and let them know that you believe them.
    • Listen when they talk and make them feel comfortable when expressing feelings.
    • Validate their feelings. Reassure them that what they did to survive was right for them.
    • Offer resources, but support them in whatever choice they make.
    • Counteract self-blaming statements.
    • Help the survivor build a strong support network.
    • Validate their experience and their feelings.
    • Let them share as much or as little as they are comfortable with.
    • Support the decisions they make around reporting or not reporting.
    • Recognize their right to label their experience however feels best for them.


    • Make statements that question their experience.
    • Invalidate their pain and suffering.
    • Get impatient if they don’t immediately “recover”.
    • Hold them responsible for the actions of the perpetrator.
    • Blame/shame them for having been targeted for sexual abuse or assault in the first place.
    • Be judgmental.
    • Interrogate them—you are not investigators.

    It is important to continue to check in with the individual. Talk with them to see what seems most helpful moving forward. Sometimes individuals want to talk and process their experience, and sometimes they want to work toward returning to their normal routines, interactions, etc. Be open to their decisions and provide as much support as you can.  

    Employees can seek support from the Assault Survivors Advocacy Program (ASAP) and the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC)

    To learn more about supporting a student or colleague, please consider these resources:

    RAINN: Help Someone You Care About
    National Domestic Violence Hotline: Help for Friends and Family
    Love is Respect: Help a Coworker
    Responsible Employee Information
    Ways Faculty and Staff can support

  • Taking Care of Yourself

    Supporting a friend, family member, colleague, or student who has experience sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and/or stalking can be tough and can have an impact on the individual providing support. It is important to prioritize your self-care so that you can support them. Even if the individual is not ready to seek support, you can access confidential support for yourself. Here are some resources that can help you process, explore impact, and connect with help and support you might be needing. These resources can offer guidance

    Assault Survivors Advocacy Program (ASAP) / On-Campus / Confidential / M-F 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

    ASAP Website / ASAP Email / Main: 970-351-1490 / 24/7: 970-351-4040

    • Located within Cassidy Hall 2nd Floor (1901 10th Ave)
    • To schedule an appointment, you can call or email the office. Walk-ins are available M-F 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
    • This resource is for all students (undergraduate, graduate, professional and doctoral), faculty, staff, alumni, and concerned others

    Ombudsperson – Johnny Armijo / On-Campus / Non-Confidential / By appointment

    Ombuds Email / Phone: 970-351-1367

    • Located in Student Affairs and Equity & Inclusion (1862 10th Ave)
    • This resource is for all faculty and staff
    • To make an appointment visit here

    UNC Counseling Center / On-Campus / Confidential / M-F 8:00 am -12:00 pm & 1:00 am -5:00 pm

    Counseling Center Website / Counseling Center Email / Office and After-Hours Phone: 970-351-2496

    • Contact for Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
    • Located within Cassidy Hall 2nd Floor (1901 10th Ave)
    • To schedule an initial visit you may call or submit an initial consultation form
    • For emergent crisis assistance walk-ins are available from 9:00 am to 11:00 am and 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
    • This resource is for all students (undergraduate, graduate, professional and doctoral), faculty and staff

    Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) / Confidential by phone

    CCASA Website / CCASA Email / Phone: 303-839-9999

    • Does not provide direct services to victims/survivors but can help in finding additional direct service providers.
    • Services include: providing appropriate referrals to direct service providers

    RAINN / Confidential by phone/ Available 24/7

    RAINN Website / 24/7 Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

    • Services include: information about sexual assault, abuse, and incest; 24/7 crisis line available via phone or online chat, information on state legislation, and providing additional resources on consent education and prevention

    National Domestic Violence Hotline / Confidential by phone, text, or online chat / Available 24/7

    Domestic Violence Hotline Website / Phone: 1-800-799-7233 / Texting Line: Text “START” to 88788

    • Services include: information about domestic violence, how to be supportive of victims, shelter and assistance information, and safety planning
  • What can a trauma response look like?
    • Flashbacks: temporarily losing touch with reality and feelings as if you are reliving the trauma in the present moment
    • Dissociation: detaching from reality, which some may describe as an “out of body” experience
    • Hypervigilance: being overly aware of your surroundings, as if all your senses are on high alert
    • Intrusive Thoughts or Memories: thoughts or memories of the trauma that are overwhelming and make it difficult to think about other things
    • Nightmares: unpleasant or frightening dreams, often directly or indirectly related to the trauma

    It is not uncommon for individuals to have internal or external reminder cues (triggers) of the event. These can occur through any of the five senses.

    Individuals often describe various ways they did or did not respond in the moment of a trauma. When an individual’s brain and body recognize they are no longer feeling safe or comfortable, they might respond in a few different ways. There is no “right” way to respond, and any response they have is valid. Sometimes individuals describe their response in these ways:

    Fight Response

    Fight types protect themselves from threat through conflict.
    Those that tend towards the fight response believe that if they establish power over the threat, it will result in security and control.
    Behaviors that might indicate this trauma response are:

    • Crying
    • Hands in fists, desire to punch
    • Flexed/tight jaw, grinding teeth
    • Fight in eyes, glaring, fight in voice
    • Desire to stomp, kick, smash with legs, feet
    • Feelings of anger/rage
    • Knotted stomach/nausea, burning stomach

    Flight Response

    Flight types protect themselves from threat through escape.
    Those that engage in this trauma response, cope with a threat by running from or fleeing the situation.
    Behaviors that might indicate this trauma response are:

    • Restless legs, feet /numbness in legs
    • Anxiety/shallow breathing
    • Big/darting eyes
    • Leg/foot movement
    • Reported or observed fidgety-ness, restlessness, feeling trapped

    Freeze Response

    Freeze types protect themselves from threat through dissociation.
    When faced with a threatening situation, those that tend towards this trauma response unconsciously detach from the situation by “freezing”, or spacing out.
    Behaviors that might indicate this trauma response are:

    • Feeling stuck in some part of the body
    • Feeling cold/frozen, numb, pale skin
    • Sense of stiffness, heaviness
    • Holding breath/restricted breathing
    • Sense of dread, heart pounding
    • Decreased heart rate (can sometimes increase)

     Fawn Response (newer to the field and not as researched)

    Fawn types protect themselves from threat through placation.
    Those that tend to the fawn response avoid or deal with conflict through “people-pleasing.”
    Behaviors that might indicate this trauma response are:

    • Over apologizing to others
    • Difficulty saying no
    • Excessive flattering the other person
    • Going out of the way to please others
    • Neglecting one’s own needs
    • Pretending to agree with others

    For more information on Trauma response visit the Human Relations Institute & Clinics

  • What are some ways to manage a trauma response?

    Flashbacks, hypervigilance, intrusive thoughts or memories, and nightmares are all common reactions to a traumatic event or experience. They take individuals out of the present and often make them feel as if they are reliving the incident. Using grounding techniques and practicing mindfulness may be helpful for someone who has experienced trauma responses. It can also help to connect with professional support in exploring effective coping strategies. Below are a few exercises individuals might find helpful in grounding themselves in the present moment.

    Shift your sensory experience(s)

    Sight: What are 5 things you can see from where you are? Describe them in detail.
    Taste: Does drinking something cold or hot or eating something sweet or sour bring you into the present?
    Touch: Do you have an animal you can pet? Or a stress ball or toy you can fidget with? Can you transfer a piece of ice from one hand to the other? Can you go outside and notice any change in temperature or sit in the sun?
    Smell: Can you redirect your attention by focusing the smell of aromatherapy oils, candles, or your favorite food? Do you have a scented bar of soap you can smell?
    Sounds: What do you hear in this moment? Is there someone you trust you can call to talk? Do you have a playlist? Can you try a mobile phone app for meditation or a soothing sound?

    Reorient yourself to the present space and time

    Ask yourself questions such as:
    Where am I?
    What is today?
    What is the date?
    What is the weather like?
    What is something I have already done today or am planning to do?

    Sometimes individuals find it helpful to do something comfortable or distracting such as:

    Seeking social support
    Listening to music
    Curl up under a blanket
    Cuddling with a pet or stuffed toy
    Taking a bath
    Using art, journaling, or another creative outlet to process
    Calling a support person
    Engaging in a spiritual practice
    Watching a non-triggering movie or show
    Reading a book
    Practicing self-compassion

    To learn more about managing and coping with trauma, please consider these resources:

    Help Guide: Coping with Emotional and Psychological Trauma
    Love is Respect: Grounding Exercises
    RAINN: Self-Care After Trauma

  • Violence and Identities 

    Any individual can experience gender-based violence, regardless of their identities. Unfortunately, individuals of marginalized communities often face higher rates of gender-based violence and can face additional difficulties in seeking help and support.  Violence intersects with the different identities an individual holds and can impact how someone experiences violence and/or harassment, responds to trauma, accesses help and support, makes decisions about reporting, or moves forward in their coping and healing.

    Harassment, sexual violence, interpersonal violence, sexual exploitation, and stalking involve an imbalance of power and control dynamics among individuals. Identities such as race, class, ability, and gender are often used to maintain unhealthy and abusive power over an individual and perpetrate harm. Individuals who cause harm and engage in violence in this way may also use someone’s identities against them to prevent someone from reporting or seeking help. Individuals impacted by various forms of violence are the experts in their experiences and may have a variety of different needs related or unrelated to their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, national origin, abilities, and other identities. 

    Resources on campus and in the community included on this site can help individuals process their experiences and impact and help identify support and resources specific to their needs.