Responding to Survivors of Interpersonal Violence

Responding to Survivors of Abusive Dating Relationships

Abusive relationships often involve a repeated pattern of verbal, sexual, emotional, or physical abuse. It can be hard to tell when a behavior crosses the line from healthy to unhealthy or even abusive because all relationships are different.

Here are some indicators of a potentially abusive relationship that you may notice in a student:

  • isolated from friends and family
  • acceptance of highly controlling behavior (checking phone constantly)
  • extremely timid or fearful when instructed to do something or talked to firmly
  • seems to feel trapped
  • bruises

What you can do:

  • Ask to talk with the student in private
  • Communicate concern calmly, recognizing that the student may be fearful and vulnerable
  • Keep in mind that abusive relationships involve complex dynamics and can be difficult to change, thus denial may occur


  • Downplaying the situation or ignoring important warning signs
  • Lecturing the student about poor judgment
  • Expecting the student to agree with your observations and/or make quick changes

Responding to Survivors of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is sexual contact (i.e. attempted or completed rape, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact) initiated against a person without consent. As defined by ECU, consent is:

  • Explicit approval and permission to engage in sexual activity demonstrated by clear actions, words, or writings
  • Informed, freely given, and mutually understood by all parties involved
  • If coercion, intimidation, threats and/ or physical force are used, there is no consent
  • If the Complainant was mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired there is no consent. This includes conditions due to alcohol or drug consumption, or being asleep or unconscious, or under the age of legal consent
  • Silence does not necessarily constitute consent and past consent of sexual activities does not imply ongoing future consent
  • Consent to some form of sexual activity cannot be automatically taken as consent to any other form of sexual activity
  • Consent can be withdrawn at any time

What you can do:

  • Step 1 – care for the student
    • Before the student proceeds with more information, inform the student that you are required to report to the University. You can inform student that they may choose not to respond to the University when contacted if they do not wish to proceed with reporting.
    • If student proceeds, listen without judgment. Do not investigate.
    • Regardless of whether the student continues to share, ensure the student is safe. If needed, contact ECU Police.
  • Step 2 – connect student to confidential resources
  • Step 3 – report


  • Expressing judgment or blame even if high-risk behaviors were involved on the part of the survivor (i.e. intoxication)
  • Pressuring the student to file a police report

Responding to Survivors of a Hate Incident or Hazing

A hate crime is a criminal act against a person or their property because of that person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, nationality, disability, gender, or sexual orientation.

A hate incident is an act that, while not meeting the legal definition of a crime, involves the same types of behavior and targeting of underrepresented groups.

Hazing involves persecution and harassment with difficult, meaningless, or humiliating tasks; it is usually used as a rite of passage or initiation into a campus organization. Hazing can be psychologically damaging and present serious physical risks (including death) to students.

A student may or may not know that hazing will be a part of an initiation process or how extreme hazing might become during an initiation process. Campus rules and regulations prohibit hazing, and some hazing activities are illegal. Learn more about hazing at ECU.

What you can do:

  • Talk with the student in private and listen to their concerns without judgment
  • Acknowledge the student’s possible range of intense feelings, including vulnerability, shame, anger,
 fear, and denial


  • Downplaying the situation
  • Expressing personal biases
  • Getting caught up in the technicalities or legalities of the situation

Responding to Survivors of Stalking

Stalking is repeated following or harassment of an individual that is designed to instill a sense of fear or danger. Stalking behavior includes tailing the survivor; harassment via phone, texting, social media, and letters; offering unwanted gifts; and exhibiting unwanted attentiveness.

What you can do:


  • Ignoring or minimizing the situation
  • Suggesting that the survivor is responsible for the unwanted attention
  • Taking responsibility for protecting the student