Intimate partner violence is a pervasive and preventable public health problem that affects millions of people each year. Abuse between sexual and romantic partners can take many forms including academic, economic, emotional, physical, sexual, and verbal. Abuse happens in partnerships across the spectrums of gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

It takes an immense amount of courage to open up and tell someone about traumatic experiences, including abuse. When someone chooses to share they can feel extremely vulnerable. It is vital the person who is approached responds in ways that are comforting, healing, and validating. At that moment, first and foremost, remain calm and be present. It is important to:

  • Tell them you care and are concerned for their safety
  • Remain non-judgmental
  • Listen without providing advice or attempting to problem solve
  • Avoid minimizing, trivializing, or being dismissive
  • Avoid either making statements or asking questions that could be perceived as victim blaming
  • Focus on the behavior that you find concerning
  • Mirror the language and terms they use
  • Tell them they are not alone, that you will support them
  • Tell them specific ways you are able to support them (a ride, a place to stay, listening)
  • Tell them in addition to your support, there are campus and community resources, as well as a 24-hour hotlines
  • If they choose to access resources, offer to accompany them
  • Ask if they feel safe at that moment
  • Ask if they have a safety plan
  • Honor their decisions
  • Be aware of the reasons people may choose to stay in abusive relationships
  • Check on them, follow up

It is important we learn together as a community to recognize potentially harmful situations, as well as learning how to take action when such situations occur. We must be prepared to support each other and be there in times of need. With this, we can create a safer and more resilient campus community.

Health Promotion and Wellness offers workshops on Bystander Empowerment and Responding with Care, which can be requested online.