COVID-19 Updates

Responding to Student Disclosures of Interpersonal Violence

The pandemic presents college students with many difficult challenges, not the least of which are increased risk of experiencing domestic violence, familial abuse, substance abuse and mental health crises. Students who are already at greater risk of experiencing economic instability, health-care insecurity and systemic racism may be even more vulnerable during this period of remote learning.

Here are some ways you can support students who may disclose interpersonal violence during the pandemic:

Assess for Immediate Danger
If students disclose interpersonal violence (intimate partner violence, sexual assault, stalking, sexual harassment and/or stalking online or in-person) via e-mail, social media, or online learning platform, begin your response by asking them if they are in immediate danger or require medical assistance. If so, encourage them to call 911 immediately. If students disclose by phone or text and it is an emergency, encourage them to end the conversation to call 911 and reconnect when they are safe. If it is not an emergency and students do not wish to alert police, it’s important to respect their wishes.

Explain the Limits of Confidentiality
Let students know that you can protect their privacy, but you cannot guarantee confidentiality. Tell students that as a responsible employee of the University, you are required to report the incident to USM’s Title IX Office, but you will not tell anyone else. Let students know that the Title IX Coordinator will likely be in touch with them via email but they are not required to make a report. Filing a report is their choice. If students would like to speak with a confidential resource, please refer them to Sarah E. Holmes, USM's Deputy Title IX Coordinator: usm.titleix@maine.edu / 207-780-5767. Also, please consider including this sample syllabus statement on your online course platform to alert students prior to disclosures, or send an email with the statement and the attached resource page.

Listen and Validate
Whether you are responding to an email, text message or listening in real-time, let students know they are not to blame for the violence they are experiencing. Confirm the emotions that they may be experiencing and that it is not easy to disclose. Please set aside your expectations and keep in mind that there is no ‘right’ way to respond to trauma.

Provide Resources and Choice
Remind students that although you are required to report the incident to USM’s Title IX Office, they have the right to file a complaint or not to file a complaint with the college online or via phone. Even if they don’t want to file a formal complaint, there are many supportive measures that they have the right to access. Please see USM's Title IX website for information on the process for victims to report interpersonal violence. 

Reach Out for Support
You do not have to address these issues alone. Please contact Sarah E. Holmes, USM's Deputy Title IX Coordinator, for support and advice: usm.titleix@maine.edu / 207-780-5767

Other Important Resources: