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Help Someone Else

If someone you know within the Northwestern community has experienced sexual misconduct, we can help you help them.  Sometimes, the most valuable advice comes from someone the individual already trusts. Whether you’re a friend, roommate, parent, or concerned member of our faculty or staff, we can point you to resources that you can share, as well as provide support for you through the process.

1. Listen

  • Confirm the person’s safety. Ask the survivor, “Are you safe right now?” If they say no, help them create a plan to get to a safe place. Call 911 if necessary.
  • Provide nonjudgmental support. Your role is not to determine whether or not something occurred. Your primary responsibility is to remain supportive of the survivor, while referring the person to others who are trained in providing assistance and/or intervening.

2. Refer

3. Report, as required

All Northwestern employees, including student employees, are required to report incidents of sexual misconduct, unless they are confidential resources.

  • If you are required to report the incident, explain your reporting responsibilities to the person who has disclosed the information to you.
  • Complete and submit the Sexual Misconduct Reporting Form.

Do's and Don'ts

While you are not expected to act as a counselor, when you are with someone who has experienced sexual misconduct, you should be aware that the supportiveness of your response can be critical in the healing process. Though there is no one “right” way to respond, the following may serve as a guide identifying more or less helpful responses:


  • Give the survivor your complete attention.
  • Validate the survivor’s feelings.
  • Tell the survivor:
    • “I believe you.”
    • “This was not your fault.”
    • “You have options.”
    • “Thank you for coming forward.”
  • Offer the survivor options:
    • To sit or stand.
    • To share more or be silent.
    • To call referral agencies or not, or to have you call.  
  • Ask the survivor what they need.
  • Remind the survivor that they are not alone, that other people of all genders have experienced sexual misconduct.
  • Provide the survivor with information about the resources available to them, including confidential counseling, medical resources and reporting resources.
  • Suggest to the survivor that they preserve evidence.
  • Follow up with the survivor.
  • Complete and submit the Sexual Misconduct Reporting Form if you are a University employee.
  • Take care of yourself after dealing with the situation. Get support for yourself if you need it. Consider speaking with a confidential resource.


  • Tell the survivor that you know what they are going through.
  • Label the experience for the survivor or make any legal conclusions.
  • Minimize the survivor’s experience (e.g. that’s just how that person is.)
  • Tell the survivor what they should do or make decisions for them.
  • Ask the survivor questions that suggest they are to blame (e.g. What were you drinking? What were you wearing? Why didn’t you run? What were you doing in that place?)
  • Question whether the survivor is telling the truth or show doubt about their story.
  • Tell the survivor that they need some proof or evidence.
  • Touch the survivor’s leg, shoulder, hand, etc. unless they have explicitly told you that it is okay to do so.
  • Talk about your own issues or history.
  • Guarantee complete confidentiality, particularly if you are a University employee with a reporting obligation.
  • Panic. Take a deep breath and focus on listening to the survivor.  

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