Providing Support

Providing Support

You can do something

If you are concerned that a family member, friend or fellow Sun Devil may be experiencing sexual violence or is in an abusive relationship, respond with support. It can be difficult to support someone through these experiences, but by listening to them and validating their experience you can help them begin to define their own healing process.

Warning signs

Be aware of the following warning signs that suggest someone may be in distress.


  • Depression
  • Reporting thoughts of suicide
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawal from support system
  • Lack of energy


  • Engaging in self-harm behaviors
  • Increase in substance use
  • Changes in sleep and/or eating patterns
  • Not attending classes
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities

Visit RAINN to learn more warning signs for college adults.

How to support

  • Check-in with your friend, family member or fellow Sun Devil if you notice any of the warning signs listed above. Checking-in may sound like:
    • “Hey, I haven’t seen you in class the past few weeks, is everything okay? I wanted to check-in and let you know I’m here if you ever want to talk.”
    • “Hey, I am concerned about you because I noticed you canceled our weekly dinner plans a few times now and you missed our floor’s game night on Monday.”
    • “You sounded pretty upset yesterday. Is everything okay?”
  • Offer resources, such as those found at Sexual Violence Awareness, Prevention and Response.
  • Actively listen and validate their experience. Active listening includes putting away distractions like phones, maintaining eye contact and summarizing or paraphrasing to check-in for understanding.
    • Validating may sound like:
      • “What they did to you was not okay.”
      • “It is not your fault.”
      • “The emotions you are experiencing are valid.”
  • Seek consultation from ASU support services including ASU Counseling Services, ASU Victim Advocates and ASU Health Services .

Discussion tips

Below are some tips to guide your discussion when supporting a survivor of sexual or relationship violence.

  • Start by believing. Victims and survivors often blame themselves, which causes further distress and can prevent them from seeking support. “Thank you for sharing this with me. I just want you to know that I believe you.”
  • Try to avoid asking questions about their experience. While this is often coming from a good place, unwanted questioning can feel similar to being interrogated. “I’m just here to listen and to better understand how I can be supportive.”
  • Check for warning signs of immediate danger or suicidal behaviors. If they are in danger, support may mean notifying police, crisis services, or another support person. Offer to share available resources. “Do you feel safe right now?” “I do know of some supportive resources that can help, would you like to hear more about them?”
  • Check-in with them and even ask them how they would prefer you check-in with them. “This is a lot for you to navigate, how are you doing?” “I want to make sure that you feel supported even after this conversation, what is the best way for me to check-in with you in the future?”
  • If you are unsure of what to say or do, simply ask them how they would feel best supported. “Thank you for sharing this with me. How can I be most helpful right now?”
  • Do not label their experiences for them, this can include the definition of the form of violence and their own identity as survivor, victim or neither. Instead, reflect back the language they are using. “It sounds like you feel you experienced something inappropriate, but you’re not quite sure what it was yet. That’s okay, that’s understandable.”

Compassion and respect

It can be intimidating to support someone who has experienced violence, but what matters most is holding a compassionate space for the other person in which they have complete control. Survivors and victims of this form of violence have already had their power and control removed and their autonomy disrespected, make sure to return as much of that power and autonomy back as you work to support them. Ask them how they want to be supported, what they need right now and if they feel safe. Let them decide their next steps and support them as best as you can as they take those steps.

Resources and training

Know that you are not alone in supporting someone in distress. Part of effectively supporting a friend is knowing the boundaries of your role.

There are resources available at ASU to support your peer in getting help and we encourage you to contact them as needed. Visit Sexual Violence Awareness, Prevention and Response for more information on the confidential and private resources available at ASU. Counseling and support resources are available for those who have experienced distress or a friend who has become aware of distress.

To learn more about how to support victims and survivors, visit the Sun Devil Support Network website and sign-up to participate in a Sun Devil Support Network training .

Survivor experiences and COVID-19

It is important to acknowledge that due to experiences of trauma, such as those related to sexual and relationship violence, a victim or survivor may have difficulty engaging in any number of the health recommendations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these recommendations, wearing masks or face coverings, may closely mimic aspects of previous experiences of violence. This could trigger flashbacks, feelings of distress and more.

We can support victims and survivors by working to find ways to help them navigate their own safety and well-being, both physically and mentally, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider the following:

  1. Wear a mask that you find most the comfortable in regard to material, fit and size.
  2. Survivors may find it helpful to practice wearing a mask or face covering at home or with the support of a therapist or counselor, to better acclimate themselves to the feelings and experiences associated with it. Additionally, you can practice wearing the mask in small outings or out on a walk with a friend.
  3. Consider working with ASU Counseling Services to develop supportive grounding techniques that you can use throughout your day.
  4. Connect with the Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services Center to learn about the options available to you if you are experiencing continued difficulty with wearing a mask or face covering.