Only a small minority of victims report their sexual assault to law enforcement or file a formal complaint with university authorities. In USU's most recent sexual misconduct survey, more than a third of victims did not tell anyone at all. The most common reasons included concerns about privacy, shame, the seriousness of their experience, and the fear they would be blamed or not believed.
Fifty-seven percent said they feared being blamed by others or not being believed.
When someone tells you they were raped or sexually assaulted, knowing how to respond is critical. A negative response can worsen the trauma and foster an environment where perpetrators face no consequences for their crimes.
When you Start by Believing, you help stop this cycle. Improving our personal and professional reactions encourages more people to disclose their own experiences with sexual assault so they can get essential support. It starts with you.
End the silence. Stop the cycle of Violence. Start by Believing.
How to "Start by Believing"
If someone discloses to you, listen with empathy and validate the person disclosing to you. For example:
- "I'm sorry this happened. I'm here for you."
- "You can tell me as much or as little as you want."
- "It's not your fault."
- "I'm glad you told me. What can I do to support you?"
Avoid asking "why" questions. These can sound accusatory and make survivors blame themselves. It is not your responsibility to investigate or to determine if a crime or policy violation was committed.
Recognize that healing from trauma is not black and white, and each individual will heal at their own pace and in their own way. Because of this, someone may not be ready or able to report to the police or Title IX right away or ever. That is okay.
Know the resources available, including victim advocacy and reporting options, and ask if they need help getting connected.