Dean of Students
Sexual Misconduct

How to Help Someone Accused

  • If a friend or someone you know confides in you that he or she has been accused of sexual misconduct, chances are they are turning to you for help and support. You may feel conflicted, but providing support and advice does not condone the alleged behavior. It shows that you are compassionate and care for your friend.

    1. Listen non-judgmentally

    Provide a non-judgmental listening ear. Your friend may not feel that they have many people that they can talk with, so it is important to let them know whether or not, and how much you can support them. This does not mean that you need to affirm or condone any particular behavior(s), but that you will provide a compassionate ear as they attempt to work through this experience.

    LISTENING is NOT: Interrupting, yelling, injecting your feelings, changing the subject, making light of the situation, etc.

    2. Give Emotional Support

    • Listen to your friend from his or her point of view.
    • If possible, provide an atmosphere where he or she can express honest feelings.
    • Don’t press for more information than he or she is comfortable giving.
    • Don't offer your help and support if it is not genuine on your part.
    • Don't blame your friend for what happened – you don't know exactly what happened.
    • Don't blame the reporting student – again, you don't know exactly what happened.
    • Don't assume you know how your friend wants to be treated – ask him or her.
    • Don't break your friend's trust by telling others what might have happened.
    • Don't recommend dangerous or risky coping mechanisms for your friend (i.e. retaliation, drinking, drug use, etc.)
    Things you can say:
    • “How can I help?” 
    • “What I'm hearing you say is _______." 
    • “What is the best thing that could happen?" 
    • “What is the worst thing that could happen?” 
    • “I realize this is a difficult thing to share and appreciate the courage it takes to talk about it." 
    Things not to say:
    • “How did you get yourself into this?” 
    • “Tell me everything.” 
    • “Why were you there in the first place?" 
    • “I’ll tell you exactly what you should do…”

    Another Note: 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 your friend receives appropriate assistance.

    3. Offer Information and Resources

    There are individuals on campus who are available to talk with students who have been accused of sexual misconduct. Direct the friend to these campus and other community resources, and let your friend make the ultimate decision about what to do.  Helping your friend access these resources is a step you can take to provide support in what may be a confusing and emotional time for both of you.  Realize that you, too, have been affected.  Care for your own well being and seek support/counseling if necessary.

    4. Avoid and Discourage Harmful Action 

    Violence or retaliation is not the answer to helping your friend. Remember, harassing and threatening behaviors towards your friend, the reporting student, or the reporting student's friends are not helpful.  These behaviors could undermine any student conduct or court proceeding taking place, and could get you or your friend into an even worse situation.

    If your friend expresses an interest in contacting the reporting student to explain his/her side, to talk about what happened, or to try to work things out, strongly discourage this behavior.  Even if your friend has good intentions, the reporting student already feels violated and further contact from your friend or 3rd parties could be perceived as intimidating, harassing and threatening to the reporting student.  

    Retaliation because a person has filed a good faith complaint alleging sexual misconduct, or has participated in an investigation or other process related to such a complaint, is strictly prohibited.  The University will respond promptly to investigate any claims of retaliation.