This semester, remember to support peers who are survivors

Abby Springs

With four student protests, a petition with over 1,000 signatures, widely circulated social media posts, and coverage in local and national news, sexual misconduct at UT has finally come to a head. Last semester, it seemed like the conversation was everywhere — in our email inboxes, on Facebook and Twitter, and even on the front page of The Daily Texan.

As students continue to discuss and protest sexual misconduct, conversations about sexual abuse will remain hard to ignore. To ensure everyone has the support they need when reminded of traumatic subjects, it’s essential that you check on and support your friends who are survivors.

Far too many students at UT experience sexual violence, abuse or harassment. Data from 2017 shows that 15% of UT undergraduate women have been raped, 28% experienced unwanted sexual touching and 13% of graduate student women faced “crude sexual harassment perpetrated by a staff or faculty member.” 

These statistics are incredibly troubling, and they make one thing clear — you may know at least one survivor of sexual abuse.

Being constantly reminded of trauma can negatively impact mental health, causing stress, sadness, anxiety and panic. While this isn’t the experience of all survivors, it doesn’t hurt to check in on your friends who have experienced sexual abuse to see if they need support.

Voices Against Violence, a division of the Counseling and Mental Health Center, uses the acronym BLOG as a guide to best support a survivor. It stands for believe, listen, offer resources and get support for yourself. 

“Believe is always the first and most important thing we can do,” said Sharon Hoefer, prevention specialist for Voices Against Violence. 

According to Hoefer, you should make sure to validate their experience and show active listening. It’s also important to offer options and resources.

“Whether someone has recently experienced an incident of interpersonal violence or if maybe they … are feeling reactivated by conversations happening around campus, it’s always up to survivors to make their own decisions about what works best for them,” Hoefer said.

Options could range from simply being with them and making dinner together, helping them sign up for confidential appointments at the CMHC or letting them have time alone. Most importantly, show that you are there to support them. 

“Checking in with your friends and being able to be present and really respect the choices that they make … would be helpful,” Hoefer said.

Resources for survivors can be found at the Voices Against Violence website. Any student can also book a free, confidential appointment at the CMHC, attend a group therapy session or visit the MindBody labs for a quiet, safe space on campus. 

Even if you don’t know a survivor personally, sharing these resources in a group chat for your student organization or reminding your friends that you’re there for them can make a bigger difference than you know. You could also consider adding content warnings to social media posts about sexual misconduct to help survivors decide whether or not they want to read about it.

Last semester showed that students are willing to stand up to protect each other from predatory professors and sexual abusers. As we continue to do so this semester, make sure your friends and peers have the support they need to be successful and mentally healthy on campus. 

Springs is a government and political communication sophomore from Dallas.