Social Response

Social Response

Getting involved can be as simple as starting with responding to rape myths, jokes that degrade survivors, or sharing something on social media or in a conversation.  We call this method social response. 

Dos & Don’ts

  • Don’t feel compelled to put yourself in a situation that seems unsafe or uncomfortable
  • Don’t react impulsively, even if what happened was extremely upsetting
  • Don’t use potentially off-putting language or terms, such as: feminism, sexism, misogyny, rape, rape culture, patriarchy, etc. Words like these can shut many people down or immediately put him/her on the defensive
  • Don’t accuse the person or apply negative labels to his/her actions
  • Don’t attack the person or call his/her character into question
  • Don’t yell at or harass the person, or become overly emotional
  • Don’t implicate the experiences of yourself or your loved ones in a conversation of this nature
  • Don’t force the conversation or become frustrated if you’re not able to address every aspect of the problem
  • Don’t get upset if s/he doesn’t quite get the picture or continues to be contrary, defensive, or belligerent
  • Don’t let the response become an argument; the intent is not to “win” or prove the person wrong, but to work with him/her on opening his/her mind, shifting problematic frameworks, and encouraging productive thoughts on the topic


  • Do look after yourself first
  • Do consider all your options, including those that may not involve directly addressing the person
  • Do assess your circumstances and proceed with the safest, most appropriate approach
  • Do take as much time as you need to prepare a thoughtful response
  • Do maintain a friendly, non-confrontational tone
  • Do try to stay calm and collected
  • Do allow the conversation to unfold as organically as possible
  • Do use your skills to subtly communicate the ways in which certain social norms condone violence and trivialize the experiences of survivors
  • Do focus on your knowledge rather than on someone else’s negative behavior
  • Do know you’ve done your best

Self – Care

For the sake of your mental and emotional wellbeing it is important to…

Consider Options – The best course of action may not always be direct response. Depending on the circumstances, you might want to enlist help (Lauren Bernstein, your RHD, etc.) or simply not respond.

Remain Calm – All your emotions are valid and deserve to be acknowledged, but becoming angry or upset while responding can leave you drained and burnt out. 


Protect Yourself – Your experiences are your own, and only you decide when and how to discuss them. However, bringing up your experiences or those of loved ones in a conversation of this nature could be triggering and/or leave you in an emotionally vulnerable state. Keep in mind that this response is not happening in a safe space for survivors.  

Let Go – Try not to become overly invested in the outcome of the situation. Know when to let go and remember that you’ve done your best.


Be sure to prioritize yourself, your health, and your safety when considering responding to a problematic situation.

Adapted to Emory University with permission by a team of Respect Program staff and interns from the University of Michigan’s Striving for Justice document.