How to Respond - University of Houston
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How to Respond to Someone Who May Have Experienced Sexual Misconduct

Remember, at the University of Houston System, ours is a community that cares. If you see someone in need, you should help them. With that said, because you are a member of this community, you may find yourself in the position of responding to a direct disclosure of sexual misconduct from another community member. If that happens, here is how you can help them:

Step 1: Care for that Person

Prior to a Disclosure (Advice for Employees)

If you believe the person is about to tell you about an incident of sexual misconduct, explain your reporting duties before they make the disclosure. If they want to talk to someone WITHOUT any information being reported, refer them to the confidential resources listed in the resources section of this website. Also, here is a sample script you could use:

“I need to tell you that if I become aware that sexual misconduct has occurred, I am required to inform University staff who are specially trained to respond, so that steps can be taken to ensure your safety and and provide you with options for support services. Your privacy will be respected, but if you prefer to talk to someone who does not have an obligation to report, there are other options. On campus, you can talk to someone in our counseling center.”

During the disclosure: Listen with empathy

Listening is the single most important thing that you can do. No one deserves to be a victim of violence, regardless of the circumstances. Let them know they are not to blame for the assault. Avoid asking questions that imply fault, such as “How much were you drinking?” or “Why didn’t you . . . ?” Instead, say something simple and kind, like:

“Thank you for telling me.”

"It must have been very difficult to share that, you did the right thing to seek help."

During the disclosure: Provide Non-Judgmental Support and Respect Their Decisions

One of the most important ways to provide support is to listen without judging or blaming. Remember that no matter the circumstances, no one deserves to be subjected to sexual misconduct. Allow them to talk about their experience. The person may not know what to call what happened; try not define the experience for them. Even saying something like, "That's rape!" could be intimidating or alienate someone who does not want to be labeled a rape victim. Instead, reinforce that they did so that they would survive and get safely out of the situation.

Follow their lead; do not take control of the situation or try and do something to “fix” it. Having experienced sexual misconduct can cause the person to feel a loss of control; let the survivor make their own decisions, and support their decisions. Also understand that everyone responds uniquely to sexual misconduct. Some common reactions may include shock, fear, embarrassment, guilt, anger, depression, and/or feeling overwhelmed. This is okay. Remember, you are not an investigator; you are someone they trust in a support role. Avoid telling them what they “should” or “must” do. One of the most important things you can do is help them take back the power that they have lost. Try phrases like:

“What kind of help do you need?”

“When you are ready, there is help available.”

"Would you me to come with you [to the hospital, Title IX Office, counseling center, etc.]?"

"Would you like for me to look up an after-hours hotline?"

Step 2: Get Help

Ensure safety

If there is immediate danger, contact your campus police or local law enforcement agency. Remember, it is always the survivor's choice whether or not to report what they experienced to the police.

  • If you are an employee, contact 911 if there is a campus emergency.

Connect the Survivor with Resources

You can provide important information about on-and-off campus resources for when the survivor is ready for additional support. You could start by making them aware of this website if they are not aware of it already. You can also provide their information to the Title IX Coordinator so the Title IX Coordinator can make a confidential outreach for support services.

Step 3: Contact Your Title IX Coordinator

Contacting the Title IX Coordinator

Guidance for Employees: At the earliest possible time (ideally within 24 hours) after you receive information that someone experienced sexual misconduct, employees must report it to your University’s Title IX Coordinator. You will need to report all relevant details about the incident(s) disclosed by the reporter. This includes the names of the reporter, the accused, and any witnesses, as well as any other relevant facts, including the date, time, and specific location of the incident. Once you have reported to your University’s Title IX Coordinator, you do not need to take further action. If the person requests another service from you (such as a make-up assignment or housing change), consult with the Title IX Coordinator if you have any concerns for granting the request.

Students and other non-employees are also encouraged to report so that the survivor can receive confidential support services. Understand, however, that you may be contacted for follow-up information as the University gathers information. It is okay to note on a report information that you do not have at that time, or to clarify if the information is not something you witnessed firsthand.

Remember, report what you know, but you are not expected to investigate.