Support for Secondary Survivors


A person who survives sexual violence or discrimination often confides in a person they know and trust before they contact a program like SARC. Thank you for making a compassionate response when someone reveals an assault to you. It can make all the difference in their recovery. Violent, abusive, and stalking behavior can exist in any relationship- short term, long term, between strangers, between same sex partners, people with disabilities--regardless of race, ethnicity, gender and socio-economic status.

Remember! Interpersonal violence, sexual assault and stalking behavior is NEVER the fault of the survivor. No matter what happens or what the situation is, the person at fault is the person who chooses to use violence.

A referral to SARC is appropriate any time a student brings up issues of interpersonal violence. Please give them the 24-hour support number, 243-6559, or direct them to Curry Health Center. Trained advocates are available to assist and support survivors, their friends & family, and faculty & staff of the UM or Missoula College campuses. SARC is available to provide consultation or training to faculty or staff who are in contact with a survivor. Remember, it is always the survivor's choice whether or not to use any resource.

Ways to help a survivor

As a faculty, staff member, or friend you have the opportunity to provide the link between that person and additional support and services.

  • Listen non-judgmentally: Listening sympathetically and without judgment establishes a climate of trust and safety. Take the assault seriously and give the survivor every consideration you would for anyone facing a serious life trauma. Each person will react to an assault, abuse or harassment in their own way. You can tell them that although the experience was traumatic, recovery and healing are possible, help is available and can make a difference. LISTENING is NOT: Interrupting, yelling, injecting your feelings, changing the subject, making light of the situation, etc.
  • Maintain Confidentiality: This is essential for both the trust and safety of the survivor. Their trust has already been violated in a deeply damaging way. Please respect the survivor’s confidences and do not discuss the situation with anyone else without the survivor's permission.
  • Give Emotional Support: Affirm that the person did the right thing by coming to you with this information. Let the person know that they need to set the pace. Don’t press for more information than they are comfortable giving. Please do not assume that touch will be comforting to a survivors. Ask the survivor before you hug them, hold their hand, etc. Help them see that no one ever deserves to be assaulted, abused or harassed. Perpetrators, not victims, are responsible for assault, abuse and harassment. Express that you realize that this is a difficult thing to share and you appreciate the courage it takes to make the first step toward recovery. If you have personal issues that might interfere with your response to this person, it would be better if you expressed your thanks for their trust in you, but let them know that you need to get someone else to help them. Please honor your boundaries while making sure the survivor receives appropriate assistance.

      Things you can say:

    • “It is not your fault”
    • “I believe you”
    • "No one deserves to be abused (or assaulted)”
    • "Are you afraid?"
    • "I am concerned for your safety"
    • "I realize this is a difficult thing to share and appreciate the courage it takes to talk about it"
    • “How can I help?”

     Things not to say:

    • How did you get yourself into this?”
    • "I would never let my partner treat me that way"
    • "All you have to do is call the police"
    • "Why were you there in the first place?"
  • Offer Information and Resources: A survivor of sexual violence, relationship violence & stalking is faced with many decisions to make in dealing with his or her experience.  For example, deciding if they want to:
    • Seek medical attention
    • Seek counseling or other emotional support
    • Tell family and/or significant others
    • Apply for a temporary order of protection
    • Make a report to university officials or make a criminal report to law enforcement

Seeking assistance from any resource must always be the survivors’ choice. There is no one “right” way for a person to respond after they have been assaulted.

You may find that their story impacts you as well. SARC services are available for you too.