CARE provides confidential support and referrals to community members and loved ones of survivors who have been impacted by interpersonal violence.
You may be the first person your loved one tells about experiencing interpersonal violence while at college. Your response plays a critical role in supporting your survivor and connecting them to resources. It often determines what a survivor will choose to do next and shapes the next steps of healing.
What does healing look like?
A survivor of violence may take time to heal; it does not happen overnight, or even in just one quarter of school. They might react differently than they have to other forms of stress in the past. When your loved one decides to tell you about their experience, keep in mind that:
Your loved one may be afraid of:
- Being alone
- Anything that reminds them of the experience or perpetrator
- Reactions from people they care about, fearing that they are disappointing you, feelings of shame and self-blame arise
Your loved one may experience feelings of:
- Outrage, guilt, anger, or embarrassment
- Physical pain from being hurt or abused
- Helplessness, isolation, alienation, and withdrawal
Your loved one may temporarily have difficulty:
- Relating to others
- Expressing affection
- Expressing how they are feeling and why
- Negative coping behaviors like using alcohol or other substances to feel better or to try and forget what occurred
It is very common for survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking to delay disclosing their experiences to others, including to parents or other loved ones. There are many reasons for this, including, but not limited to, self-doubt, shame, and fear of how the other person will react.
How does this affect me?
No matter if and when a survivor chooses to tell others about their experience of violence, it is important to support the survivor and their decisions.
Family members, friends, and loved ones are often indispensable support systems for survivors. We encourage all members of a survivor's support system to prioritize their own health during this difficult time. They may experience a range of emotions after learning that their relative, close friend, or partner has been hurt. These feelings often include anger, disbelief, pain, sadness, and helplessness.
How can CARE support me?
CARE is able to listen to support people of survivors to help them find resources, as well as to better understand the role they can play in the healing and wellbeing of their survivor. Due to our confidentiality policy, CARE advocates will not speak directly to a parent or supportive friend about a specific survivor without that survivor’s explicit consent. CARE will be able to provide general information about how to best support any survivor if a parent or loved one calls with questions.
How can I best support the survivors I know?
All parents can start these kinds of conversations early with their loved one:
Start the conversation early, and have it often. There are many resources online to help you discuss relationships, sex, consent, and personal boundaries with your loved one. Here's one article we like on navigating consent. Be mindful of your survivor's relationship with you and how these conversations could reinforce blaming ideologies.
If you're wondering how to talk about interpersonal violence with your survivor, here are some advocate-approved suggestions:
- Listen in a sensitive, caring manner. Be patient and try to avoid interrupting or making statements that may feel judgmental.
- Don't ask for details about what happened or why it happened. Let survivors share what they are comfortable sharing. Avoid questions that suggest blame.
- Let them know it's not their fault—no one asks for or deserves to experience violence or trauma. Thank them for feeling that they could come to you.
- Support them by referring to campus and community resources. Respect their decision whether to seek assistance, even if it is different than what you would choose. You can also help them access these resources by helping them find the contact information for or accompanying them to resources.
- Seek support for yourself. Supporting someone who has experienced violence can be challenging. Pay attention to your own needs - this could mean setting boundaries, taking extra time for activities that you enjoy, etc. Check out these suggestions for self-care (which we also often recommend to your loved one!).
Know that your supportive, caring presence is great help in and of itself. Survivors who receive positive support and validating reactions when sharing their experiences of violence have better psychological outcomes and heal faster.
Community & National Resources
CARE recognizes that each individual may hold many of the different identities that our Communities we CARE for pages address. For more information on another identity, please go back to Communities we CARE for.
We support survivors from all backgrounds, the survivors that we serve are not limited to the identities listed on our Communities we CARE for page. If you do not see your identity listed, and would like to learn how interpersonal violence impacts you, please call our 24/7 confidential phone number at 805-893-4613 or make an appointment online to be connected with a confidential advocate.
Schedule a non-urgent appointment with a CARE Advocate.
To speak with a confidential advocate immediately, please call our 24/7 CARE advocacy line at 805-893-4613. If you have an emergency or feel that you may be in immediate danger, please call 911.
If you have experienced a sexual assault within the last five days, call CARE at 805-893-4613 or navigate to the Medical section on our Advocacy Services page to learn about the time-sensitive option to seek a free, confidential forensic medical exam.