Supporting an Alleged Offender
Supporting Someone Accused of Sexual Assault
If a friend or someone you know confides in you that they have been accused of sexual assault, it may be hard to know what to do next. You are likely struggling with your own questions and mixed emotions about the situation and may be unsure how to respond. Know that it is natural for you to feel conflicted regarding your response, but also know that simply providing advice and emotional support in no way condones the alleged behavior, but represents a simple act of compassion and care for your friend. Chances are if your friend has told you that they have been accused of a sexual assault, that person may be turning to you for help and support.
Here are some ways that you can help:
Encourage your friend to consult with professionals in the Dean of Students Office and/or the Title IX Coordinator. These offices can provide resources to any student or employee charged with a sexual assault. Connecting your friend with these resources will help provide the support and information they need to better understand and work through the process ahead.
Your friend may find it helpful to process the emotions and difficulties they are experiencing as a result of the charge from a third-party. The Counseling Center can be of assistance in providing this vital support to students going through this experience.
Educate yourself on the issue of sexual assault
Increasing your own understanding of sexual assault and sexual violence may help you to process your own feelings about the incident as well as assist your friend with the process that may be ahead.
Provide a non-judgmental listening ear. Again, this does not mean that you need to affirm or condone your friend's alleged behavior, but simply that you will provide a compassionate ear as they attempt to work through this difficult experience.
Respect privacy and confidentiality
Don't share your friend's story with others without their permission unless required to do so.
Don't forget to support yourself
As with supporting a victim, supporting a friend through a trauma can be a difficult and emotionally draining experience for those in the support role as well. Recognize this and don't hesitate to seek help and support for yourself when you need it. You cannot effectively support your friend without being mindful of your own health and well-being. Most of the resources listed on this website are available to anyone impacted by sexual violence. Don't hesitate to use them for your own support and self-care.
University of Virginia Sexual Assault Education and Resources. (n.d.). Supporting someone accused of sexual assault. Retrieved September 2, 2014, from http://www.virginia.edu/sexualviolence/sexualassault/supportingasurvivor/accused.html