How to respond when someone confides in you about their experience with sexual violence

*Content warning: sexual violence and trauma

Providing support to survivors of sexual violence is extremely important. You don’t have to be an expert on the issue to respond with compassion when someone confides in you about their experience with sexual violence. It can be a big decision for a survivor to choose to share their story, and if they confide in you, it likely means that they trust you.  

If someone reaches out to you in the immediate aftermath of experiencing violence, the first step is to ensure the survivor is safe and not in immediate danger. If you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. You can also reach out to the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO) for support during this time. You can reach SARNCO’s statewide helpline at 1-844-OHIO-HELP and their local (Franklin County) helpline at 614-267-7020. 

Once you have established safety, do your best to remain present, engaged, authentic, and genuine in your response. Start by believing. Practice active listening. Be patient and eliminate distractions. It can be important to express general themes of compassion, support, belief, nonjudgment, and validation. 

Some examples of supportive responses you can offer when someone tells you they have experienced sexual violence include: 

  • “Thank you for sharing your experience with me.”  
  • “It takes a lot of courage for you to share this experience.” 
  • “I believe you.” 
  • “This wasn’t your fault.” 
  • “You didn’t deserve this.” 
  • “I’m sorry this happened to you.” 
  • “I’m here for you.” 
  • “How you are feeling is valid.” or “Your reaction is completely valid.”  
  • “You are not alone.” 

There are also some other reminders to keep in mind as you have this conversation. First and foremost, let the survivor guide the conversation. Be patient and gentle with them. Focus on listening. This may involve sitting in silence and respecting their pace, as well as allowing or encouraging them to take a break when needed. Do not try to fix the situation or jump to action – just focus on being present with them and offering support and validation. 

Don’t ask for details or pressure the survivor to share more information than they are comfortable disclosing. Follow the survivor’s lead and use the same language that they are using to describe their experience when you are talking to them. Don’t judge their reactions or emotions. Experiencing trauma can lead to a variety of valid responses, which can include anger, fear, confusion, sadness, numbness, and many others. Remind them that their experiences, reactions, and emotions are valid no matter how they may be feeling.  

Don’t give unprompted advice or offer suggestions unless you are specifically asked to do so. Instead, ask the survivor how you can best support them and let them define their wants and needs. You can also ask if they would like to look into what resources and options are available. Try to always ask permission before providing information. Asking for permission and letting the survivor take the lead can help to re-establish a sense of control and autonomy after their consent has been violated. If they say no, respect their decision. Do not judge their choices. It is completely up to the survivor what steps they take, including whether they want to report their experience or seek services. 

If you are serving in a capacity in which you are a mandatory reporter, gently inform the survivor of this role and explain what it means. If you are not, keep the survivor’s story confidential. Their story is theirs to tell, and it is up to them when they decide to share their story, as well as to whom and when they want to share their story.  

Finally, as a support person, it is important to care for yourself. Please remember that there are resources available for you as well. Many helplines, including SARNCO’s, are available to support co-survivors and loved ones.  

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, you are not alone.  


On-Campus Resources

Community Resources


-Lucy Hennon, Graduate Student Assistant   

Why Talking to Your Friends About Sex Can Mean a Safer Environment for Everyone 

Talking about sex, easy, right? For a lot of people within the OSU community, being a college student means entering adulthood and one thing that can come along with that is sex becoming a more common presence within life. However, that isn’t the case for all of us. You may be waiting, not planning on ever having sex, or just haven’t found the right person. Even if sex is a part of your life, that doesn’t mean that talking about it is easy. The thing is sex is taught as something very taboo. In most high schools, it’s often shown as something holding a lot of risk and isn’t spoken about openly, even by the educators meant to provide you with information on the topic. Sex is a normal part of life and something that we can take part in turning the tide on. You may already be speaking with your friends and those within your close circles about it, which is fantastic! If you aren’t or already are and are just curious to learn more, here are some reasons why making sex a topic of conversation can make your sex life better and create a safer environment for our whole community.  

  • Removing the stigma and the fear associated with the topic. As mentioned before, there is a massive stigma around sex in many areas of the world, including central Ohio. To not speak about such a major topic not only prevents us from learning from others, but also creates a sense of inability to ask for help or clarification. When we feel comfortable hearing about a topic, we’re much more likely to feel comfortable speaking on it as well. It’s, definitely, something worth figuring out the answers to.  
  • Talking about sex makes us more in tune with what is and is not ok. If we’re able to speak to those around us about sex, we’re able to learn from them. Not all knowledge can be found on JStor, and your friends can help you work out grey areas of what you might be wondering regarding boundaries when it comes to sexual acts. This can be important so that you’re able to tell your partner(s) what is or is not ok, as well as making you more understanding when your partner gives you their boundaries.  
  • Provides New Ideas for What You Might Like Consent and making sure that we’re holding ourselves and others accountable for our acts is a major aspect of having conversations on relationships and sexual interactions. However, it can also help us figure out what sounds like a good time. Maybe your friend has had an amazing experience in the bedroom (legally) incorporating a Lime scooter. You’ll never know if that sounds like something you want to try without hearing about. If you know someone who’s tried something that you’ve been curious about, talking about their experience may lead you to a new way to liven up the bedroom, dorm, or Honda Civic!  
  • Improves Your Ability to Communicate with Your Partners Destigmatizing the discussion of sex is an empowering thing, giving us the ability to bring up sex without feeling like it’s wrong. It’s essential to have good communication in a relationship, and, definitely, when engaging in sexual acts. A sexual act doesn’t have one definition, it tends to shift from person to person, so establishing boundaries with your partner and figuring out what each of you like means a safer experience, and one that can be more beneficial and enjoyable for all parties involved!  
  • Makes You Think Nobody wants to give a presentation on a topic without even knowing the topic ahead of time, it’s easy to have a hard time putting all of your thoughts together on the spot. In a similar way, it’s useful to have your mind made up or at least know the implications and importance of what your boundaries are. Even if you aren’t in a long-term relationship with someone, you should be able to let them know what works and doesn’t work for you, and vice versa. 
  • Speaking Up Returning to the importance of destigmatizing conversations, feeling comfortable with this topic gives us a chance to speak up when something is wrong. Whether that’s responding to something inappropriate that someone says in conversation or stepping in when an interaction that you’re seeing just looks off, feeling familiar with this topic makes us all allies to one another and provides us with the power to create a safer community on campus and when we go out into the world.  

We’re constantly being exposed to new ideas and it’s a great idea to take control of that and pursue your own knowledge, foster the spread of it within your groups, and help to create an environment where people feel empowered to speak up for themselves and others.  

-Molly Teller, Wellness Ambassador for the Student Wellness Center 

What Did Your Health Class Not Teach You About Sex? 

Content warning: This blog contains sensitive information regarding sexual assault. 

Were you told that abstinence is key? Were you told that if you have sex you will become pregnant and be tainted with an STI?  That’s what I was taught in middle school. I can remember being handed a notecard that said I would abstain from sex, drugs, and alcohol. That was the end of my sexual education. The education provided in our schools is severely lacking. This is definitely something to consider when thinking about the rates of sexual assault and harassment in our society, especially on college campuses. Among undergraduate students 23.1% of women and 5.4% of men experience rape or sexual assault (RAINN). These numbers are quite shocking and mean that you likely know someone who has experienced sexual violence. So why are the rates of sexual assault and rape so high? Many factors contribute to the problem, but sex education practices may be harmful.  Let’s think about the things many of us were taught and try to understand why some of these practices can be harmful. 

Only 24 states and DC in the United States mandate sex education, and most of them require abstinence as part of the curriculum (KFF). Why is teaching abstinence so harmful? The problem with teaching only abstinence is that we are being told simply not to have sex. This is harmful for a lot of reasons. First, it is discouraging the conversation about sex and placing a negative connotation of what sex is. Nobody wants to say it out loud and nobody wants to ask questions about it. In the few states that do mandate sex education, it is often skimmed over, focused on abstinence, and presented in a tone promoting shame. Where are we supposed to learn about sex? Who are we supposed to have these meaningful conversations with when society makes it such a shameful topic?  What do we do when the one place we are supposed to talk about it they leave out the most important aspects? 

Nobody ever learns what’s right and wrong. We don’t learn that what is portrayed in the media is not an accurate representation of what these experiences are supposed to be like. The media often has little to no representation of consent at all. Even more harmful, media often portrays signals of saying no and refusing consent as a reason to try harder. In our society, the movies we watch, the books we read, and the media we consume foster a stigma and negative connotation of sex. The lack of education around consent creates skewed beliefs and ideas of what sexual encounters should look like. A combination of these factors contributes to the high rates of sexual assault and rape.  

So how do we stop this, and how do we decrease the number of people’s lives that are being devastated by these acts? It is our responsibility to educate each other. To speak up when music lyrics talks about “taking what he wants when he wants it” or when the former president of the United States talks about the same thing. Start the conversation. The more openly we discuss the complexities of sexual relationships, the less stigma and shame will be associated with the topic of sex. We can help people understand that we have a responsibility to treat each other with respect and consideration in sexual relationships. 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is an annual campaign to raise awareness about sexual violence and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent it.

-Sarah Frederick

The WAPpening

It’s the end of September and WAP by Cardi B (featuring Meghan Thee Stallion) has cemented its rightful place in the Billboard Top 100 for the last 4 weeks; peaking at #1 and never dropping below #2.  

Whimsically written, WAP has been funneled through social media and popular culture at an explosive rate. On the monstrous social media outlet TikTok, the most viewed post featuring the song has exceeded 58.5 million views. Then there is the music video, which if you haven’t watched it, it’s quite the journey. I personally appreciate WAP’s candor; it never pulls a punch and it’s brilliant in doing so. However, the song hasn’t entirely inspired everyone to break the stigmatization of women’s sexuality.  

Rather, WAP has encountered resistance and confusion. DeAnna Lorraine for instance, a Republican politician who lost against Nancy Pelosi for representation of California’s 12th Congressional District, went as far as to tweet that the duo behind WAP “set the entire female gender back 100 years” with their hit single. Ben Shapiro, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire, demonstrated a lack of knowledge concerning hyperbole when questioning the health of women requiring “a bucket and a mop” on Twitter after initially ranting about the song on said show.  

Herein lies the ageold phenomenon of this particular double standard: why is it that explicit (at times even implicit) music that male artists make about sex normalized while explicit music that female artists make about sex considered uncivilized?  

Exhibit A: Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke (featuring T.I and Pharrell). Granted, Blurred Lines is a song that promotes non-consensual sex, but it still works perfectly for this comparison. Blurred Lines is charismatic and catchy, and at first glance masquerades as four minutes of flirting. A second look at the song makes it apparent that the lyrics allude to misogyny, intoxication, and sexual assault. Unlike the satisfying tune of Blurred Lines,” WAP is an aggressive roller coaster ride, but the lyrics are simply about sex, regardless of how raunchy they may appear. In all fairness, WAP describes healthy sexual practices and kinks, as well as common sex toy usage ala Kegel balls. Sure, both songs describe drinking and drug use, but one song specifically uses it in the context of controlling women, while the other focuses primarily on sex as a pleasurable, normal practice for women.  

Regardless of one’s thoughts on WAP,” it would be folly to ignore the consequence of its arrival in popular culture. Perhaps we will look back upon WAP as a onceinageneration song that inspired social change and dialogue focused on destigmatizing female sexuality in American culture. After all, hindsight is 2020. 

-Sebastian Imitola, Safer Sex Wellness Ambassador

Relationship Cryptids: The imaginary partners you should not wait around for 


1.‘The Right Person’ 

Myth:  The Right Person comes along and knows exactly what you want. They just get it. Without you verbalizing anything, the Right Person instinctively respects all your boundaries, fulfills all your fantasies, and is the perfect partner.  

Reality: Great relationships don’t happen because two mindreaders end up together. There is no realistic way that a person can be expected to already know everything you want, unless you tell them. Absolutely – some people are naturally better suited for each other, or have an easier time understanding each other’s values. But no two people are exactly alike, and no two people’s fantasized Right Person are exactly alike either. Communicating what you need in a relationship is key. A well-intentioned person who genuinely wants to learn more about you and your needs might not be the magically effortless Right Person, but they can do all the things the Right Person would if you’re willing to tell them what you want. 

2. ‘The Knight/Princess/Fairytale Character’  

Myth: Romantic love is a fantastical adventure in which someone is rescued, a great adventure is had, and the protagonists live happily ever after.  

Reality: Sometimes there will be real life love stories that make you feel swept away into a movie, and those are fun and exciting! But the recipe for a great love story is not the same as the recipe for a great relationship. Excitement, chemistry, and dragons make for an awesome beginning – but basing what you want in a relationship off what you want in a story is forgetting that you will still be living, growing, and changing through your ‘happily ever after’. Take a moment to think about your relationship expectations – are they grounded in real-life experiences, or do they sound more like a fairy tale?  

3. ‘The Other Half’  

Myth: It is normal to spend your whole life feeling like a piece of your heart is missing. You’ll find that piece when you find your Other Half. They complete you. 

Reality: You are a whole person. A relationship is made of two or more whole people. If you don’t feel complete, a romantic partner is not the permanent solution. People are often attracted to partners with differing and complementary traits that may balance their own. Relationships can help us expand our hearts and grow as people, but you will never be less of a whole person outside of a relationship than in one. If you don’t feel like a whole person, there may be some more intrapersonal work to be done. 


-Hadas Marcus, Relationship Education and Violence Prevention Ambassador 

Buck-I-CARE about Preventing Sexual Violence

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month so let’s talk about prevention. What is one way you can prevent sexual violence? Consent. Every time. As a community we need to talk about it- in and out of the bedroom. So, what is consent? Consent is the affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision to engage in mutually agreed upon behaviors. Consent must be knowing, active, explicit, voluntary, never implied, and can be withdrawn at any time. You need consent for all physical and sexual interactions.

Why is consent important? Everybody has the right to control what happens to their body. Consent is how you interact with other people without violating their boundaries. This isn’t some terrible contract though. Consent and communication are how you know that someone is into you and how you express that you are into someone. With consent each person can communicate what they like and dislike to create a more satisfying experience for everyone involved.
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How do we make sure all our sexual experiences are consensual? Use the CARE method.


Check: It is your responsibility to make sure that your partner(s) can make an informed decision and give consent.Are they substantially impaired by alcohol or drugs, unconscious, sleeping, experiencing emotional or physical trauma, underage, or unable to reason due to a disability? Then it’s not consensual. Using force, threats, blackmail, size, or strength is coercion and coercion is NOT consensual. Check the power dynamic. Does this person hold something over you like a job or a grade? If so, this relationship is not consensual.

Ask: Once you’ve checked, you actually have to ask. But this doesn’t have to be super awkward! Tell the person what you want, ask them what they like, whisper in their ear, use dirty talk. Asking takes practice and may be awkward at first, but this is how you know you aren’t violating anyone’s boundaries.

Respect: After you’ve checked and asked, you need to respect their response. If they do not answer with an enthusiastic yes, respect that. It is ok to show your honest emotions. But your response shouldn’t make the person feel guilty and change their mind. What are other ways you can respect your partners? Believe them the first time they say something. Comfort your partner and affirm their decisions.

Empower: Empower your partner(s) to make their own decisions. Respect and affirm their boundaries inside and outside of the bedroom.Think about your own boundaries and desires and encourage your partner(s) to do the same. Have conversations with your family and friends about the importance of consent and respecting that everyone gets to set their own boundaries.

So how can you prevent sexual violence? Make consent a priority and practice it. Use the CARE method every time. Talk about consent with your friends. Preventing sexual violence starts with you and your community. Buckeyes value consent and care about creating a community based on respect and personal responsibility. Because Buckeyes CARE and so should you.

-Lauren Tucker, Relationship Education and Violence Prevention Ambassador

I Wear Teal

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and April 7 is SAAM Day of Action. On SAAM Day of Action, we’re wearing teal to spark a conversation about sexual violence. Why teal? Teal symbolizes trust, devotions, and healing – all of which play an important role in SAAM.

I’m particularly drawn to the idea of devotions – specifically, devotion to prevention and devotion to supporting survivors.

I wear teal to bring awareness to sexual violence on campus and beyond. In the U.S., 1 in 4 women and 1 in 19 men will experience sexual violence while in college (1). Outside of campus, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will experience sexual violence (2). LGBTQ+ people experience violence at higher rates (3):

  • 1 in 2.2 lesbian women
  • 1 in 1.6 bisexual women
  • 1 in 3.8 gay men
  • 1 in 2.7 bisexual men
  • 1 in 2.1 transgender folx

People of Color experience high rates of violence, too (4).

  • American Indian/Alaska Native: 34.1%
  • Asian/Pacific Islander: 6.8%
  • Black: 18.8%
  • Hispanic/Latinx: 11.9%
  • Mixed Race: 24.4%
  • White: 17.7%

I wear teal to show survivors: I see you. I hear you. I believe you. You are strong and you matter. What happened to you was not your fault.

I wear teal because I believe in a world without sexual violence, and everyone has a role to play to get us there. Consent should be part of every physical interaction you have and is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of sex. The best part about consent is that it shows you and you partner(s) are comfortable with each other. Remember to CARE:

  • Check that your partner(s) can give consent
  • Ask your partner(s) for consent
  • Respect their response, no matter what it is
  • Empower your partner(s) to make decisions for themselves

You can also be an active bystander. Step in and say something any time you see a situation where someone could be hurt. Check out to take our quiz and find out what your most comfortable intervention style is!

So I ask, why do you wear teal? Tell us why and show us your teal on Instagram and Twitter: @osuwellness

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, there are several resources available to you: –

– Cate Heaney Gary, Relationship Education and Violence Prevention Coordinator 


  1. Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network:
  2. National Sexual Violence Resource Center:
  3. Human Rights Campaign:
  4. End Rape on Campus: