Information for Staff and Faculty Responding to a Student Disclosure

A staff or faculty member may be the first person a student discloses to due to the impact they are experiencing. This may be a direct disclosure or the faculty or staff may notice that the students behavior has changed ( not participating in class as they had previously, late assignments, not showing up for class or work) and the disclosure may happen when the staff or faculty member checks in with the student regarding these noticeable changes. Staff and faculty are important informal support resources for students. Within your role it is appropriate to provide initial support to a disclosure, provide information about support resources, connect the student directly to the appropriate resources, and inform the student if you are a mandatory reporter and what that means.

Please click here for tips on how to provide initial support when an individual discloses.

Please click here to learn about mandatory reporting and how to follow your mandatory reporting duty in a trauma informed way.

Given the many resources on campus at times faculty or staff may not know which resource to refer the student to. Below is a list of formal resources on campus and when to refer.

The Office of Victim Assistance: offers free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy, and short-term counseling to students, faculty, and staff at the University of Colorado Boulder impacted by disruptive or traumatic events including: physical assault, hazing, bias motivated incidents, death, discrimination and harassment including sexual harassment, intimate partner abuse, serious accidents, sexual assault, stalking, natural and human made disasters, as well as other potentially traumatic situations. 

Counseling and Psychiatric Services: Offer confidential, on-campus mental health and psychiatric services for a variety of concerns such as academics, anxiety, body image, depression, relationships, substance use and more.

Ombuds Office: Offers confidential, impartial, informal and independent problem-solving and conflict resolution resources.

Student Support and Case Management: Services include navigating campus and community resources, referrals to community providers, exploration of and referral for behavioral health concerns, coordination and follow-up during and after hospitalization and/or medical leave of absence, health and safety referrals, problem resolution, help managing multiple or complex medical needs, and crisis management. This resource is not confidential.

The Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance: conduct investigations regarding protected class discrimination and harassment and sexual misconduct ( Sexual Assault, Intimate Partner Abuse, Stalking). Coordinate the provision of accommodations and interim remedies as necessary, and provide educational trainings and sessions for all members of the University community, including faculty, staff, and students. This resources is not confidential.

How to refer to the Office of Victim Assistance:

Inform the student that the Office of Victim Assistance provides free and confidential counseling and advocacy services. Advocacy can include safety planning, talking about reporting rights and options, medical options, academic and housing options, and assistance in navigating systems ( Criminal, CU, Academic). By talking to OVA the student is not notifying the university or starting an investigation. In fact by talking to OVA a student can learn about all of their rights and options and OVA will support the person in whatever they decide is best for them. It is important to share with the student that one does not need to identify with the word victim to use our services and OVA is not going to use that word if they do not identify in that way.

Ways to directly connect the student with OVA:

1) Provide the student with the above information, OVA contact information, and website. Inform them they can contact OVA whenever they are ready.

2) Walk the student over to OVA for a drop in to meet with an advocate counselor in the moment. If you are able please call before you walk over so we can ensure that an advocate counselor is available.

3) Ask the student if it is okay for you to give OVA their contact information. Inform the student OVA will outreach to them directly and it is their choice if they wish to speak with OVA or not.  Please call OVA (303) 735-4866 or email and provide the students name, contact information, and a brief summary of what the student is experiencing.  OVA will then directly outreach to the student by phone or email.  This option decreases the initial barriers in contacting our office and gives an opportunity for the student to learn about OVA services directly from an advocate counselor.

Academic Advocacy through the Office of Victim Assistance:

The Office of Victim Assistance counselor advocates are not academic advisors however can provide information and advocacy regarding a students academic options. Academic advocacy can include informing the student of their academic options, providing documentation, and sending professor notifications.

What is a professor notification?

After meeting with a student and with their written consent, OVA can send an email to professors notifying them that we have met with a student and the student is experiencing impact from a disruptive or traumatic event which can impact academic performance. These emails are vague intentionally to protect the privacy of the student as much as possible. The purpose of the email is to start the conversation to decrease the barrier of a student approaching a professor regarding academic needs related to a traumatic experience. OVA advises the student to then follow up with the professor directly to ask for what academic needs they may have (an incomplete, an extension, an excused absence). OVA informs the student that it will be the professors decision to what accommodations they can provide to the student.

 What should I do if I receive a professor notification from the Office of Victim Assistance?

The email will state that the student will follow up with you directly. You are welcome to email the student directly if you have not heard from the student. Please do not ask information about what has occurred. It is appropriate to provide support and acknowledge that they are going through a difficult time. The student may request to meet with you in person or talk with you after class. The student may ask you " what are my academic options at this time?" or they may ask for specifics" Can I have an extension on the midterm paper?" It is common for traumatic experiences to result in difficulty in concentrating and focus for a time, therefore you too may notice the academic changes in the students performance. It is up to you what accommodations you decide are reasonable. If you need further guidance please feel free to call OVA and we can talk with you by phone to discuss some options. You can also seek out guidance from your department and chair to decide what may be common practice in your specific department. While OVA does not have the power to make professors provide academic accommodations we do ask that you please  take the professor notification into consideration when assessing the students academic options.

CO Sex Assault Reporting Options Brochure

Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA), Forensic Compliance Evaluation Project (FCEP) and Colorado Division of Criminal Justice created a brochure on reporting options regarding unwanted sexual experiences.

Sexual violence can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, class, race, appearance, ability or any other way they might identify. Our hope is that support and resources are available for all survivors.

To view brochure click here

Resources for CU community members with disabilities or with temporary injuries that affect mobility

 Beginning Fall Semester 2013 Disability Services, ADA Coordinator's Office, Housing & Dining Services, the Dean of Student's Office, Parking & Transportation Services, and Via Mobility Services have partnered to create a pilot program that provides more access to campus and to introduce Via's capabilities for CU students, faculty, and staff with disabilities or with temporary injuries that affect mobility.

Please click on link below for more information:

Information for Trans Survivors

The Boulder County Trans Survivor's Task Force compiled a trans specific brochure for Trans* survivors of violence.  Boulder County Trans Survivor’s Task Force is a community-wide partnership dedicated to promoting equitable, inclusive, welcoming care for trans* survivors of sexual trauma.  The resources in this brochure are intended for trans survivors and people supporting survivors.

 Please click here for brochure.

National and Community Resources for Disasters

Disasters take many forms and so do the responses people may have to them.  Here are some national resources and links that address general and specific disasters.  Also visit OVA’s disaster page for more local and campus information. From the APA (American Psychological Association) Help Center::

Natural Disasters:

From Red Cross and FEMA:

From the Centers for Disease Control Emergency Preparedness and Response:


Caring for Yourself in Grief

  • Sleep. Regular rest is very important. If you have trouble sleeping, try drinking aglass of milk or listening to soothing music. Sometimes journaling can help to transfer racing thoughts from the head to paper. Find what works for you.
  • Eat Well. Be sure to eat well-balanced meals. Seek out people with whom you will be comfortable to share mealtimes as often as possible. Eat meals intentionally; do not rely on snacks or simply eating in front of the television. Gradually your appetite will return.
  • Drink Well. Drink plenty of water and herbal teas; avoid caffeinated drinks or alcohol
  • Exercise. Get some exercise, whether walking , T'ai chi, swimming, or any physical activity. Exercise helps you release some of your tension. It will help you feel stronger.
  • Breathe. Take "time-outs" and breathe deeply and fully two to three times in the midst of your activities.
  • See your Physician. If you are not feeling well, see your primary care physician. Grief takes a toll on your body, and you may be susceptible to illness. Do not hesitate to check it out.
  • Find Friends. Find people who are comfortable with your grief and will let you experience your feelings, whether that is crying, telling your story again and again, or sitting with you in silence.
  • Be Patient. Try to be patient with people who do not understand your pain. Be patient with yourself as well.  Grief takes time.
  • Do Something with your Feelings. Find an outlet for your feelings. You may want to try journaling, which is a good way to externalize all that is going on inside of you. Some people find creative outlets, such as painting, sculpting, or writing and playing music. Others may just find talking to be the best outlet. Find what works for you.
  • Allow Yourself Time to Grieve. Allow yourself grieving times. Try to declare other times non-grieving times. This way you may find at least short times of peace.
  • Pamper Yourself. Set aside time each day to do at least one activity that brings you comfort and feels like you are pampering yourself. Even if it does not bring the pleasure it used to bring, it will help you relax and begin to heal.
  • Physical Contact. Ask for hugs, get a massage or take a hot bubble bath to get some physical comfort.
  • Look to Nature or Animals. Nature and pets can be healing. Tune into the cycles of nature. Absorb the beauty and wonder of the natural world.
  • Find Your Coping Skills. Draw on your memory of past experiences that were difficult. What you learned then can help you now. Learn what you can do when the pain overwhelms you. Try not to let helplessness take over.
  • Be Gentle with yourself. Above all, be gentle with yourself. Pretend you're a friend who needs your help and support. What would you do for them?

To print this please click on the following link: Care During Grief

From: HospiceCare Grief Services
1585 Patton Dr
Boulder, CO 80303
Phone: 303-604-5300
Fax: (303) 604-5350


General Information

Disasters can occur in our natural environment, as with hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, or fires and the like; or they can be humanly or mechanically generated, as for example with school shootings, an explosion in a building, or lab accidents that have mass impact.

What to Do

Practical Information

Your safety is the first priority. Some natural disasters, such as a flood, a fire, a tornado or a hurricane may require you to evacuate in order to get to a safe place. If mass evacuations are required, the Red Cross and other organizations will likely have set up a shelter for those who do not have other places to live temporarily. Even if you have other places to stay, these organizations can usually help with food, clothing and sometimes can assist with working with your insurance company.

Safety is also the first priority in a mass crime scene such as a school or workplace shooting. If you are directly involved in such an incident, do whatever you can to protect yourself. If you have a cell phone with you, call 911 as soon as you are able to do so safely. As soon as you are safely able to get away, leave the area of the crime scene. If you are not directly involved, but are hearing about such an event, it is important that you stay away from the scene of the incident, both for your own safety and to maximize the ability of first responders to do their jobs.

In many disaster situations, there is a chaotic environment in the immediate aftermath. Do your best to remain calm. It is common for people experiencing an intense situation to experience the fight, flight or freeze response. Your normal processes of judgment and thinking may be affected by the large number of hormones being “dumped” in your body, and you may find that you experience tunnel focus. All of these responses and others are normal in a potentially traumatic situation.

After the immediate disaster has ended, you may have questions about what your options are. Depending on the nature of the incident you may have specific needs such as emotional support, housing or academic concerns. Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) can offer free, confidential counseling and consultation on your options. 303-492-8855

Medical Concerns

If you have been physically injured and are unable to leave the scene of the disaster, it is important that (if you are able) you let first responders know about your condition and where you are located. If you have been injured but have been able to leave the scene, go to the nearest emergency room for treatment. Boulder Community Hospital is the closest hospital to CU-Boulder. If you are unsure if you have been injured, go to your doctor or to the emergency room for evaluation. Some injuries require immediate attention so don’t wait to get treatment or an evaluation if you can possibly avoid it.

Treatment and Support

Many people who have experienced a disaster--either because they have been directly impacted, because they have friends or family who have been directly impacted, or because hearing about the event was upsetting--benefit from counseling in the aftermath of the event. Some people experience impact from such events even if they haven’t experienced it directly themselves or known people who were impacted. We know that our earlier experiences of trauma can be triggered by current experiences of trauma. Regardless of the reason, if you find that you are experiencing increased anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, numbing or other uncomfortable feelings, you may benefit by seeking counseling to deal with the emotional impact of the event.

In many mass events, the Red Cross and other agencies have counselors available to talk with those impacted. Since disasters take many different forms, you may find that none of these descriptions fit with what you have been through, or how you’re reacting to the event. It may be of benefit to you to seek out individual counseling in order to discuss with a professional what you are experiencing. OVA offers short-term counseling and also has a list of therapists in the Boulder and Denver areas to whom we can refer if longer-term therapy is appropriate.


Depending on the type of the disaster, you may need to find alternative temporary or permanent housing. In mass events, the Red Cross can provide temporary shelter and help find alternative housing. OVA can discuss options for a change of housing in the Boulder area. CU’s Off-Campus Housing and Neighborhood Relations can help CU students seeking alternative housing at 303-492-7053. There may be limited availability for housing in the residence halls or at Bear Creek Apartments. Information about these options can be gained at Residence Life Occupancy Management at 303-492-6673.


Sometimes experiencing a disaster can lead to difficulty concentrating, or having the ability to focus on school or get to class. You deserve to be in school and to meet your academic and other goals. The OVA staff can discuss options for managing academic issues with you while maintaining privacy. If you wish, we may be able to notify your professors of the situation you are dealing with. There are concrete things the University can do to help you with your situation.

How to Help

Sometimes people, in the wake of a difficult or traumatic situation, can find it hard to assess their options, or even know where to begin. Friends, family and significant others can offer to listen, or do some of the basic footwork about what resources exist.

You may notice the person who has experienced a disaster having a variety of different feelings, or behaviors. They may seem tired and withdrawn, angry and irritable, or oddly energetic and outgoing. Let the person know what you notice about their behavior and express your concern. Consider referring them to a confidential and supportive resource like OVA.

If you know someone who has experienced a disaster:

Helpful responses:

  • Remain calm.  Encourage discussion about the trauma to the extent that the survivor feels comfortable to do so.
  • Listen.
  • Follow their lead.  Use their language as much as possible to describe what happened and their feelings about it.
  • Encourage the person to seek counseling from specially trained mental health professionals.  The Office of Victim Assistance can be a resource.
  • Help the person explore options and choices in their process of healing.
  • Leave the control of decision-making up to the person.
  • Acknowledge your own feelings of anger, concern, and sadness.  Seek support for yourself to help process your own reactions to the trauma.
  • Respect the person’s need for privacy and their desire to talk or not to talk about the details of the trauma.


  • Overreact or escalate the situation.
  • Under-react as this can be invalidating
  • Judge or question the survivor’s response to the traumatic situation.
  •  Make decisions for them or take control from the person.
  • Gossiping about what your friend has shared.
  • Forgetting about yourself! Getting support for yourself will allow you to be more available for your friend or family member.

For more information on how to help please click here.

Emergency Management at CU-Boulder and in Boulder County

On CU-Boulder’s campus, Emergency Management (part of the Department of Public Safety) is responsible for the implementation, training, coordination and oversight of emergency management and business continuity plans and programs. Their website,, contains information about Emergency Information and Warnings, Emergency Management Resources, Emergency Plans and Procedures and other information. If you would like to know what is being done on the CU-Boulder campus about emergency planning, they are your best resource. Their phone number is 303-492-6820.

If there is a disaster which has taken place on the campus, in the city of Boulder, or in Boulder County, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management has up-to-the-minute updates on emergency status, as well as a wealth of helpful information at Their phone number is 303-441-3390.

Active Shooter Information and Video

There is information and a video about an active shooter situation on the University of Colorado Police Department website at



Sudden Loss

Facing Sudden Death: When someone dies accidentally, unexpectedly, and/or violently

Loss in itself is painful enough, but sudden loss is shocking and the shock can double one’s pain and intensify grief.  A sudden loss may seem more painful, complicated and emotional.  Besides the common phases of grief a sudden loss has some additional challenges.

  • There is no chance to prepare or to gradually absorb the change in your world
  • There is an increase in grief over the senselessness or unfairness nature of the death
    • Some feel cheated as there was no last good-bye
    • Feeling cheated can add to one’s despair and anguish
    • “If only . . .” is a common question one may ask themselves
  • There may be grief over the lack of dignity of the death
    • Feeling the deceased was denied a peaceful or natural death
  • The world can feel less safe
    • Feelings of disenfranchisement (the world is bad) and vulnerability may increase
    • Feeling fearful, uncertain, angry and/or frustrated with the world
    • It may be hard to watch TV, read the news, etc.
  • There may be feelings of guilt because you have survived
    • This is a normal feeling, even if it feels unreasonable
    • Taking some responsibility for the death is an attempt to get some control of the senselessness of the incident
  • When a younger person dies suddenly or violently the feeling of unnaturalness is heightened for some, “they still had so much life to live”
  • Some sudden losses have media coverage making the loss more public
    • Some feel a loss of privacy or information is misrepresented
    • Yet one may find themselves obsessively gathering/following the reports
  • There may also be more involvement of the criminal justice system
    • Negotiating autopsies, police reports, legal meetings/hearing can increase emotional turmoil
    • The legal system can also go on for some time, possibly delaying parts of the grieving process
  • Anger/rage feeling may be overwhelming
  • There may be a lack of control over memories and thoughts about the loss
  • Some may feel isolated
    • Not sure who to trust and lean on for support

Take care of yourself through your grief

  • Express your feelings
  • Get support from others
    • Be it from family, friends, counselor, or a grief group

Adapted from Hospice Care of Boulder and Broomfield and Hospice Foundation of

To return to Office of Victim Assistance’s Grief and Loss/Death Overview page click here

Information for Injured Students

When confronted with a serious injury which interferes with academic life, it is important that students communicate directly with campus resources which can help.  The professionals at the Office of Victim Assistance (303-492-8855) can work with injured students and their families to do an assessment of the injured student’s needs, and to work out the development of a plan which can address those needs.  We are staffed by counselors who are familiar with the resources at CU-Boulder campus and in the Boulder community.  We are also familiar with the kinds of issues and needs that serious injuries often present.  We can talk with you about your situation, assess your needs (academic, physical and emotional), and work in collaboration with other on- and off-campus resources in helping to address those needs. College success assumes high energy levels, ongoing productivity, and sustained effort.  A serious injury can interfere with a student’s ability to attend classes and to fully participate in the rigors of academic life.  This extra set of challenges can often disadvantage the injured student in the academic environment in which they live.

Because each situation is unique, Victim Assistance staff will help create an individualized plan for your recovery strategies.  The decision regarding whether or not to stay in school after a serious injury is difficult and complex.  Factors which need to be considered include the nature of your injury, the timing within the academic semester, your current academic performance, the extent of physical and emotional difficulties, and recommendations from “experts” on your condition and its impact on your academic performance.

Listed below are some questions, intended as a checklist, which may be helpful to you if you find yourself in a situation where serious injury interferes with your academic performance.


  • If there is impact on your academic work or your ability to be in class, contact your professors to notify them of your injuries and the scope of the limitations resulting from them.  Victim Assistance can assist with this.
  • Communicate clearly to your professors what your medical or subsequent limitations are and for how long they are anticipated to last.
  • Discuss missed classes and assignments with your instructors.
  • See if friends or acquaintances in the class(es) may be able to help you by supplying notes for the classes you missed.  See if they can assist you by asking for a volunteer in your class to share their notes with you.
  • Call the Dean of Students office or the Office of Victim Assistance if you have had difficulty connecting with your professors.
  • Get medical documentation of your injury that you can provide if needed
  • Be aware of academic semester timelines. (   If it is past the deadline to withdraw you may need to contact the Dean’s office or your academic advisor for assistance.
  • Determine whether or not academic support services are needed.
  • If your injury has caused a disability, contact Disability Services (303-492-8671).  Here is some information on their website for students who have temporary medical conditions including injury:
  • If tutoring is necessary, contact department offices to find extra support in catching up.  If you live in a residence hall and need tutoring, contact the tutors there.
  • Consider any of the following as a means of coping with the long-term effects of your injury:
  • Determine whether tuition classification/residency status is affected by your injury.

Mobility and Access (if applicable):

  • If your mobility has been impacted, determine how you will get around campus.
  • Consider:
    • getting to campus
    • getting to your classes
    • getting into your classrooms
    • how long it will take you to get across campus
  • Consider mobility aids, such as a power wheelchair or scooter.  For full list of rentals click here
  • Talk to your insurance agency regarding transportation or mobility assistance.
  • Explore the informal supports of friends and other support people for assistance with transportation and mobility.
  • Check community resources like the HopParking ServicesRTD, or Special Transit.
  • Be aware that you, or a friend providing you transportation, may be eligible for a parking permit that will get you closer to your classes.  To get a handicapped placard, you will need to secure it from the DMV with appropriate medical documentation.  Call Parking and Transportation Services at 303-492-1220 for more information.

Financial Concerns:

  • If you are on financial aid, contact the Financial Aid Office at 303-492-5091 to notify them of your situation, or to discuss ramifications to your aid with respect to pertinent timelines.   .
  • Discuss with them whether or not there are financial consequences related to various decisions about your academic options.
  • If you need to drop classes or withdraw, contact the Bursar’s Office (303-492-7496) for more information regarding possible financial reimbursement.
  • Be aware that withdrawals (or the Time Out Program) are processed through the Office of the Registrar (


  • If you live in a Residence Hall, inform your RA or Hall Director of your situation.
  • If you are planning to leave the residence halls, complete proper procedures.
  • If you are returning to the residence halls and have special needs, consider how you will meet those challenges.

Taking Time Out from School:

Campus Resources:

Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs/Dean of Students – Center for Community S430 – 303-492-8476

Center for Multicultural Affairs – Center for Community N320 – 303-492-5666

Counseling and Psychological Services – Center for Community S440 – 303-492-6766

Disability Services – Center for Community N200 – 303-492-8671

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center – Center for Community N450 – 303-492-1377

Office of International Education – Center for Community S355 -- 303-492-6016

Office of Parent Relations – Center for Community N460 – 303-492-1380

Office of Victim Assistance – Center for Community S440 – 303-492-8855

Psychological Health and Psychiatry – Wardenburg Health Center – 303-492-5654

Women’s Resource Center – UMC 419 – 303-492-5713

Off-Campus Resources:

Boulder Community Hospital – Mapleton Rehabilitation Center – 311 Mapleton Ave. – 303-440-2273

To return to the Office of Victim Assistance main page on accidents click here

Mandatory Reporting Policy at CU-Boulder

The University of Colorado Boulder has policies that prohibit discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner abuse, and stalking



  • Conduct that deprives an individual of a benefit of employment or educational opportunity based on membership of a protected class*.

  • Unwanted verbal or physical behavior.  Conduct that interferes with an individual’s work, academic performance, or participation in university programs or activities is considered harassment.

          Sexual Harassment

  • Harassment of a sexual nature
  • Severe and/or repeated sexual behavior that is not welcome or asked for
  • Comments/innuendos/behaviors of a sexual nature which are inappropriate to the environment
  • Sexual assault is a form of sexual harassment
  • Intimate partner abuse and stalking are also covered in these policies


  • Anyone who has the authority to hire, promote, discipline, evaluate, grade or direct faculty, staff or students;
  • Everyone who manages or supervises others, includingbut not limited to faculty, teaching assistants, resident advisers, coaches and anyone who leads, administers, advises or directs University programs.

Reporting duty is part of University policy:

  • CU-Boulder policy requires any supervisor who becomes aware of a complaint of protected class discrimination and harassment and sexual harassment (including sexual assault, intimate partner abuse, and stalking) or related retaliation, to promptly report it to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) if the alleged perpetrator is an employee or a student.

How best to respond to a disclosure:

  • Refer the victim/complainant to the Office of Victim Assistance or the appropriate other confidential office for support and information.
  • Explain to the victim/complainant that:
    • Because the University takes these allegations very seriously you are required to contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) to report it;
    • Provide OIEC with all of the information received;
    • OIEC will contact the university police if the behavior is criminal;
    • An OIEC investigator and an OVA advocate may outreach directly to the victim/ complainant.
    • The victim/complainant may choose to talk to or not talk to these offices.
    • For more tips on how to respond click here

Confidential Resources exempt from this policy:

For more information go to:

*CU's Protected Classes

·         Race

·         Color

·         National origin

·         Sex

·         Pregnancy

·         Age

·         Political Affiliation

·         Disability

·         Creed

·         Religion

·         Sexual orientation

·         Gender identity

·         Gender expression

·         Political Philosophy

·         Veteran status

Secondary Trauma

Secondary Trauma/Vicarious Trauma

  • Vicarious trauma can occur for those who work with trauma survivors and/or who are exposed to other’s traumatic situations.  Vicarious trauma can affect the following areas: physical, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and spiritual.
  • It is important to notice changes in yourself after seeing and/or working close to other’s trauma.  Notice if your views start to incorporate the views of the survivor, this can increase with repeated exposure to other’s trauma.
  • OVA provides free and confidential advocacy and counseling services to those supporting the survivor, also known as secondary survivors. It is important for you to have a place to process your own feelings and reactions to mitigate potential for secondary/vicarious trauma and in order to take the best care of yourself while supporting the survivor.

Common Signs of Secondary/Vicarious Trauma:

  • You may question your basic beliefs about the world, safety, trust, justice
  • You may have a heightened awareness of the vulnerability and fragility of life
  • Survivors  may feel a sense of powerlessness and that could start to transfer to you
  • Feelings of isolation or alienation may develop.
  • Difficulty managing emotions
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty managing the boundaries between yourself and others
  • Problems in relationships
  • Difficulty feeling connected with what is going on around and within you
  • Loss of meaning and hope, questioning beliefs about the world, safety, trust, and justice
  • Physical aches and pains, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, anxiety, change in appetite

Prevention/Decreasing Secondary/Vicarious Trauma

  • Be aware of your symptoms of stress to prevent them from becoming severe.
  • Establish clear, realistic stress management goals and incorporate the planning and support needed.
  • Incorporate down time in your schedule.
  • Take deep breaths and/or do simple meditation.
  • Make sure to be eating regularly and including healthy foods and water.
  • Develop a support/social system, be it with friends, family, community members, counselors etc.
  • Exercise is a good stress reducing activity.
  • Sleep is very renewing, so try to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
  • You may want to limit your exposure to certain media, i.e., the news, newspapers etc.
  • Know your limits and when to ask for help, you do not have to do this alone.

“To keep the lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it.” Mother Teresa

(this information was adapted from and Cynthia McKenna)


Ways to Express Sympathy


After talking with numerous grieving people who have said that after a loss they were too much in shock and numb by their grief to answer those who said to them, “If there is anything I can do, let me know.”  Below are a variety of things you can do for those who are grieving to express your care and concern without necessarily saying anything.

  1. Look for an immediate need and fill it. Help with basic needs like arranging transportation and accommodations, helping with kids, and helping with communication between friends and family.
  2. Be there when needed. Just being present and in the same physical space as the grieving person so they are not alone, if they do not want to be alone, is helpful.
  3. Provide food. Eating and preparing food can be very overwhelming and often just forgotten by the grieving person, so bringing food is helpful because then they do not have to think about where to get food and it is a reminder to keep healthy and eating.
  4. Sending flowers or donating to a charity. Some say, “No flowers,” and if that is the case a house plant is an alternative.  Also some families ask for donations to a charity or foundation in the name of the deceased, especially if there was an organization that was special to the deceased.
  5. Reach out and touch (literally). Many have a need, sometimes unrecognized, to be touched during a difficult time.  A hug, a handclasp, and hand on the back, can communicate you care without saying a word.
  6. Listen. Just listening, letting them share their feelings of grief helps them work through their own grief and decreases the odds of prolonged depression.  Also do not be concerned about causing tears by listening and encouraging them to talk, if they want to talk, because crying is a normal way to express grief.  Silence is also something that is helpful, sharing silence is another way of listening.
  7. Send a note, card, letter, or make a phone call. You do not have to say much to make your feelings known, a simple, “I am thinking of you” or “I care about you,” speaks volumes.  It can also be comforting to recall a shred event or special quality of the deceased.
  8. Encourage the bereaved to get out of the house. Be it for a quick bite to eat, or to take a walk around the neighborhood.  Time is usually forgotten and the griever welcomes an opportunity to get out of the house, because they may not do it on their own at first.
  9. Give of your talent and experience. Something you know how to do that they do not or are not able to do at the time, like knowing a lawyer, how to fix a clogged toilet, laundry, cooking, etc.
  10. Help with the days ahead. In the beginning there are usually a lot of people around and offering to help, as time passes stay in touch – it is when people start to get back into their daily routines that friends are needed most, grief and loneliness last for many months.

Adapted from Ten Ways to Express Your Sympathy by Kathleen Cruzic.

To return to Office of Victim Assistance’s Grief and Loss/Death Overview page click here

Appropriate Expectations with Grief

Appropriate Expectations You Can Have for Yourself in Grief The following is a list of appropriate expectations that you can have in grief.  Evaluate yourself on each one and see if you are maintaining realistic expectations for yourself.

You can expect that:

  • Your grief may take longer than most people think
  • Your grief may take more energy then you may have imagined
  • Your grief will involve many changes and be continually developing
  • Your grief will show itself in all spheres of your life: psychological, social and physical
  • Your grief will depend upon how you perceive the loss
  • You will grieve for many things both symbolic and tangible
  • You will grieve for what you have lost already and for what you have lost for the future
  • Your grief will entail mourning the loss, your hopes, dreams, and unfulfilled expectations you held with what you have lost and for the future needs unmet because of the loss
  • Your grief will involve a wide variety of feelings and reactions, beyond only sadness
  • The loss usually resurrects old issues, feelings, and unresolved conflicts from the past
  • You may have some identity confusion as a result of a major loss
  • The reactions you experience may be quite different that what you may had expected
  • You may have a combination of anger and sadness, such as irritability, frustration, annoyance, and/or intolerance
  • You may experience some form of anger and guilt
  • You may have a lack of self-concern
  • You may experience “grief spasms,” acute upsurges of grief that occur suddenly with no warning
  • You most likely will have trouble thinking (memory, organization and intellectual processing) and making decisions
  • Sometimes you may feel like you are going crazy
  • You may obsessed with the loss and be preoccupied with the loss at times
  • You may begin to search for meaning and may question your faith and/or philosophy on life
  • You may find yourself acting socially in ways that are different from before
  • You may find yourself having a number of physical reactions
  • You may find that there are certain dates, events, and stimuli that bring upsurges of grief
  • Society may have unrealistic expectations about your mourning and may respond inappropriately or unhelpfully towards you
  • Certain experiences later in your life may resurrect intense grief for you temporarily
  • Holidays and anniversaries may also bring upsurges of your grief
  • Your grief may look very different from others or even from other grief you have experienced
  • Grief usually is based on your personality and how you attach meaning to the loss

Adapted from How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies, by Therese Rando

To return to Grief and Loss/Death Overview page click here

Safety Planning Tips

Stalking and Safety Planning

The following information is suggestions of ways to plan for safety. 

Do what works for you, as you know the situation better than anyone.

  • Program 911 into your phone.
  • Let your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and security know about the situation.
    • Give them photos of the stalker/harasser, as well as identifying information about their car, license plate, etc.
    • At work have your calls screened and be notify if they see evidence that the person has come near your home or work.
    • Obtain a protection order and distribute copies to local law enforcement.
      • For more information contact 303-492-8855
      • Keep a detailed log of all contacts or suspected contacts, including saving any e-mails, written notes, telephone calls, texts or other messages.
        • Save and document everything.
        • Take extra safety measures to protect your personal information.
        • Any written or telephone threats should be taken seriously.  Notify the proper authority.
        • Be alert of any unusual packages, boxes or devices found on your premises.
        • Keep friends and family informed of your whereabouts.  Use your support network.
        • Vary your routine periodically, as well as the routes you take.  Again use your support systems.
        • Change phone numbers, passwords and PINs.
          • Document all changes made as a result of the stalking.
          • Trust your instincts.

If you have not told the stalker/harasser to stop, here are some samples of a no-contact statement*:

  • I am not interested in having a relationship with you.  Do not continue to call, stop by, or have any contact with me whatsoever.
  • I want you to stop contacting me.  If you continue to contact me, follow me, be on my property, or call or message me in any way, I will call the police.
  • I am ending our relationship.  Do not make any attempt to try and renew it.  I will not change my mind.  I do not wish to have any contact with you now or in the future.  If you try to contact me, I will take legal action against you.
  • I will no longer tolerate this unwanted contact and harassment.  If you try to contact me again in any shape or form, I will call the police.

*Once this is communicated either by email or messaging, do not have any more contact with the harasser/stalker.  If they continue to contact you, DO NOT respond but DO keep a log of the contact and get law enforcement involved.  Victim Assistance can help with this process or answer any questions you may have.

To print this page please click on following link:

Stalking Safety Planning

Back to stalking main page