How to Help a Survivor

CARE to Stop Violence understands that the journey to healing for someone you care about will probably impact you.  It is very common for others to feel overwhelmed, angry, powerless, frustrated and sometimes guilty.  CARE can provide an opportunity for you to talk about your feelings in a safe and supportive environment.  We are available to speak with you via email, phone or in-person.

You can play a critical role in the healing process if someone you know has been impacted by power-based violence.  There is no “cookie cutter” approach to healing after a traumatic event. For example, some victims may experience depression while others may experience anxiety.  It is important for you to be non-judgmental and allow your loved one to make decisions about how they want to proceed on their journey to healing.

    Common Reactions to Trauma

    • Change in eating habits
    • Withdrawal from social situations or need to be with other people
    • Denial-avoidance-minimization
    • Intrusive thoughts
    • Nightmares

    How Can You Get Help for Someone?

    Common Scenarios and Who to Call

    If you believe your loved one is in immediate danger call 911
    If you believe that situation cannot wait until business hours, you can call a CARE Advocate on the Crisis Cell 24/7 fall and spring (301) 741-3442
    If you believe your loved one has a substance abuse problem, seek help from University Health Center Substance Use Intervention & Treatment Unit (301) 314-8106
    If you believe your loved one is self-injuring or considering suicide, seek help from any professional therapist at the University Health Center Behavioral Health Service 301) 314-8106
    If you believe your loved one may have been the victim of trauma, seek help from the CARE to Stop Violence Office. (301) 314-2222

    Responsible University Employees

    Some University of Maryland employees are considered Responsible University Employees (RUEs) and are required to report instances of sexual misconduct that they become aware of. RUEs should tell a person disclosing (or potentially disclosing) about this requirement as early as possible in the conversation. This way, the survivor can decide whether to disclose to a non-confidential resource or not. Instructors: it may be helpful to make students aware of this requirement in class or in your syllabus, along with information about confidential resources they can use. For more information, visit

    How to Help Your Friend, Student, or Loved One

    Don’t ignore or avoid the problem or the person.

    You may feel afraid that you will say or do the wrong thing, or that you will make the situation worse. However, it usually just isolates the person. Ignoring it may make them feel as if you don’t care and it’s not going to help them get better.

    Avoid asking “why” questions or pressing for details.

    Avoid pressing them for details of what happened; it can be re-traumatizing. You can invite them to share as much or little as they'd like, but don’t push. “Why” questions, like “Why did you do xyz?”, can seem like you are blaming the person for their choices, rather than keeping the responsibility with the perpetrator.

    Don’t isolate the person.

    You might get frustrated sometimes if you feel that they aren't listening to your advice or your concerns, or taking action. That’s okay. It’s important for them to make their own decisions, even if they aren’t always decisions that you would choose. That doesn’t mean that you should isolate the person out of frustration…try to be patient, and keep letting them know you care.

    Don’t force them to do anything.

    Offer options, but unless you think they are in immediate danger and need to call 911, don’t force them to take any actions, like reporting an assault to the police or University.


    Don’t assume that they can just “get over it."

    A traumatic experience, drug or alcohol abuse, eating concerns, self-injury behaviors, and depression are serious problems that require professional help and treatment. They are not caused because the person is weak or because they are not trying to get better. Healing and recovery is a process and can take a long time.

    Use “I” statements when talking to the person.

    Using “you” statements can sound like you are blaming someone, even when you don’t intend to. Use “I” statements when talking to them, e.g. “I’ve noticed that you are eating very little, and I’m worried about you” rather than “You aren’t eating enough”.

    Suggest they seek help.

    If the person is in medical danger or is talking about suicide, it's important to Step UP and act by contacting 911. Although you should talk to the person before you do, you may not be able to convince them to seek help. If it’s not an emergency, offer to go with them to a confidential resource; it can help it feel less intimidating.

    Get support and information for yourself.

    It can be helpful for you to talk to a professional who is bound by confidentiality. This can help you know what to do & give you a safe place to talk about your thoughts and feelings. You are welcome to talk with a CARE Advocate.

    Keep the person's information confidential.

    Don’t talk about their issues with other people, unless they've given you permission to do so. You can share your concern with others, but disclosing information like the fact that they have been assaulted, or have a specific diagnosis can be really damaging if they aren’t ready for other people to know—and sometimes there can be safety issues depending on their situation. Just because the person has talked to you about their issues does not mean that they are comfortable talking to anyone else, or are comfortable with anyone else knowing. Respect their right to privacy, and keep their information confidential, unless required to report.


    The Impact of Trauma

    Sexual misconduct often traumatizes survivors and affects their everyday lives. In this video, CARE will equip you with the knowledge to recognize common behavioral and emotional responses to trauma survivors may experience.

    Arabic, Chinese, English, French, and Spanish Closed Captions are Available!

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    How to Communicate with Survivors of Sexual Trauma

    Gain knowledge to help you communicate with survivors and learn about resources that can assist with your support efforts.

    Arabic, Chinese, English, French, and Spanish Closed Captions are Available!

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