When someone discloses an experience of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, your role is a support person, not an investigator. By investigating, you may ask questions that feel judgmental and/or could influence someone to share more than they intended or wish to share. To best support someone else, consider these following steps. To remember these steps, think SILVERS:
The first step is asking the individual if they feel safe. Are they fearful of their physical safety? Do they perceive an imminent threat? Need any medical attention? If they express a concern for their safety, walk or connect them with the appropriate resource, which could include:
- Law Enforcement: If there is an imminent threat, the individual may want to talk with law enforcement to provide safety measures and take action to prevent/address the threat.
- Medical Personnel: If the individual is in need of medical attention, connecting them with medical personnel can get them the support they need. Medical resources can include, but are not limited to, Curry Health Center, St. Patrick’s Hospital, or Community Hospital.
- Student Advocacy Resource Center: SARC can assist the student with safety planning, connection to other services, and resources.
- Equal Opportunity and Title IX: EO/TIX can assist with providing protective and supportive measures to the individual.
The goal of this step is to make the individual feel safe and address any risk to their safety or the campus community’s safety. DO NOT force the individual to connect with any of these resources if they do not want to.
If you are an employee of UM, you have a mandatory reporter obligation to report information about discrimination based on sex and sexual harassment involving students (see Mandatory Reporting for more information). It is very important that you tell the individual as soon as possible, so they can make an informed decision about what information they want to provide to you. If the individual expresses concern with your mandatory reporting obligations, provide them with the confidential resources available to them (see Confidential Resources for more information).
Listen to the individual’s narrative without judgment. You should limit your talking and questions as much as possible, so the individual can lead the conversation and share the information they choose to. If you need to ask questions, you should limit “why” questions as they commonly can feel like you are blaming the individual for the conduct they allegedly experienced. You should offer compassion and empathy throughout your interaction.
You should validate the feelings and reactions of the individual while letting them know that what happened was not their fault.
Do not make decisions for the individual. While you may have opinions about what they should do next, allow the individual to make an informed decision based on what is best for them in the moment.
You should provide resources to the individual. To review a list of available confidential resources, non-confidential campus resources, and community resources, please refer to the resource page (located here) or this resource guide (link to PDF).
If you are an employee or wish to make a third-party report to Equal Opportunity and Title IX, you can refer the incident to our office by the following means:
Phone: (406) 243-5710
Visit our office: 006 University Hall
Mail: Equal Opportunity and Title IX
006 University Hall
Missoula, MT 59812
Take care of yourself. When hearing narratives of other’s experiences with discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, you can personally be impacted as well. Please remember that resources are available to you as well. You do not need to process the information alone. If you would like to consult with Equal Opportunity and Title IX regarding the information that was shared with you, we would be happy to talk.