Bystander Intervention

The College considers the welfare of students, faculty, and staff to be of paramount importance. The College recognizes that at times students, on and off campus, may need assistance. The College urges all community members to offer help and assistance to others in need and take reasonable and prudent actions to prevent or stop an act of sexual misconduct. Taking action may include indirect or direct intervention when safe to do so, enlisting the assistance of friends, contacting law enforcement, and/or seeking assistance from a person in authority, such as faculty members, coaches, deans, safety and security, or police.

How to Help a Friend

If you have questions

If you have any questions on how to assist a friend who is a victim/survivor of sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking, please contact one of the following:

  • Campus Safety and Security: (641) 269-4600
  • Dean of Students:(641) 269-3700
  • Title IX Coordinator: (641) 269-4999

A common fear of victims/survivors is that they will not be believed or that their experience will be minimized as “not important.” Remember that it is four times more likely to be raped by someone you know than by a stranger. Accept what you hear – even if the respondent is popular and nice, or even if the complainant appears confused and unable to put their thoughts together clearly, no one reacts to trauma in the same way. Complainants may appear either calm and collected, or very emotional. Both extremes are normal reactions. Also, a sexual assault that does not involve a completed rape can be as traumatic as a rape, so treat any sexual assault victim/survivor with the same care and concern.


Let your friend talk and tell the story at her/his/hir own pace. Be patient if he/she/zi is silent and just needs you to sit with her/him/hir. Reinforce that the incident was not her/him/hir fault. Avoid questions that seem to blame the complainant such as ‘Why didn’t you scream?” and “Why did you go to his room?” and “Why don’t you just break up?” Allow your friend to talk out feelings of self-blame, but help her/him/hir to see that the assault was in no way her/his/hir fault.

  • …If the victim/survivor wants to report the incident. Reporting an assault does not necessarily mean pressing charges – that decision can be made later, but it is important to collect evidence to keep that option open. If the complainant was sexually assaulted, obtaining a post-assault examination is highly recommended.  This exam should be done as soon as possible (within 72-96 hours) and if possible, the complainant should not eat, drink, wash, brush teeth, or change or destroy clothes. For more information about reporting to Campus Safety and Security see below or contact the Grinnell Regional Medical Center for medical treatment at (641) 236-2380.   
  • … If he/she/zi wants to seek medical attention. Complainants of sexual assault are at risk for internal injuries (which may not be immediately apparent), sexually transmitted infections and/or diseases, and unwanted pregnancy. Even for those assaulted less recently, testing for sexually transmitted infections that may have no obvious symptoms is essential. Encourage your friend to speak to a nurse or doctor regardless of when the assault occurred.
  • …what can you do to make them feel more comfortable or safe.  Most importantly remember not to make any decisions for them. As a result of the incident, power and control was taken away from your friend. It is important that you now empower them to decide what options they will pursue.

Suggest that the complainant seek counseling and other support services. This does not mean the victim/survivor must report the assault to the police. A trained counselor can guide the complainant through the first critical hours after an assault. Support services are also available for those who have been sexually assaulted in the past.  Explain what resources are available to the survivor and allow him/her to make a decision about what is best. You can also offer to go with them.

Extra tips on how to help a friend in an abusive relationship
  • Don’t be afraid to tell your friend that you’re concerned. You can point out that the behavior is not normal and that he/she/zi deserves a healthy relationship.
  • Refer him/her/hir to resources that can assist in developing a safety plan.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don’t ask questions like, “Why don’t you just break up?” Respect your friend’s decision to stay or to leave. Many individuals leave and return to abusive relationships multiple times. It is important to support him/her/hir regardless of what you think is best.