What to Expect

Common Reactions

Everyone responds to trauma in different ways, and it is common for a survivor’s reactions and feelings to change over time. Even if your friend’s reaction does not make sense to you or contradicts previous feelings they have had, the most important thing you can do is validate them. The following list is not comprehensive but lays out some common responses to trauma:

  • Physical: trouble sleeping, nightmares, headaches, loss of appetite, overeating, stomach problems, muscle tension.
  • Emotional: denial, fear, sadness, anger, guilt, shame, embarrassment, crying spells, flashbacks, irritability, depression, suicidal thoughts, attempting to maintain a relationship with the perpetrator.
  • Academic: lack of concentration, impaired memory, missing classes, lack of motivation.

If you are alarmed by your friend’s reactions, it can be helpful to seek out advice from a trained professional or empower your friend to seek help.  If you believe your friend is an imminent danger to themselves or others, call 911.

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Being a Support Person

Survivors can bring support people with them for nearly every part of the process. This includes meetings with the Title IX Coordinator or investigators, meetings with the police, or visits to the hospital. Sometimes friends are the best source of support for a survivor, and so you may get asked to accompany a friend to any or all of these places.

A few things to know:

  • You may be asked to sit outside for certain parts of the meetings. Bring a book or something to keep yourself busy.
  • Sometimes you and your friend will have to wait extended periods of time. This is especially true at a hospital or police station. Bring something to keep both of you preoccupied such as a coloring book or word games.
  • Bring paper and a pen to write down any useful information. It can be hard to remember everything, especially for your friend if they are experiencing residual trauma.
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