Frequently Asked Questions
The helpline is available to the entire MIT community as a tool for supporting MIT students and their partners. This may mean you as a student or a partner are calling to figure out if you would like to schedule a longer conversation, to get an overview of your options, or to find support if you are in crisis. It could also mean you as a parent, friend, professor, or GRA are calling out of concern for a student. Please don’t worry if your concerns “qualify” for our services. If we aren’t the right resource for you, we’ll still be glad you called as we can get you connected to better options. The helpline is active from 9am to 5pm ET, Monday through Friday. If you call outside of these hours, our phone tree can connect you to available resources or to our voicemail. You can also reach out to one of the contacts on our Resources page.
VPR focuses on issues related to interpersonal harm (sexual assault, sexual harassment, unhealthy relationships, etc.). When you meet with an advocate, you can share as much or as little as you want. You might want to talk about something you’ve experienced, coping strategies, your needs and priorities, or even just how you’re feeling. You might want assistance navigating campus procedures, such as reporting or finding a mental health care provider. Interpersonal violence is often traumatic, and trauma is an embodied experience. It can be hard to find words for something that is inherently nonverbal. You don’t have to go to an advocate knowing what to say.
While the word “violence” generally brings to mind physical acts of force, violence takes many forms and may cause emotional, mental, financial, sexual, and/or physical harm. Please don’t let the word “violence” prevent you from reaching out. We’re here for you no matter how you classify your experience.
Advocates are here to offer emotional support and coping skills, connect you with resources, and help you think through your options and navigate systems (such as campus procedures). Advocacy and therapy are different. In fact, often, students we work with will choose to work with both an advocate and a therapist, as they serve different needs. For more information on what advocates do, we invite you to view our Advocacy Services page.
If someone you know might benefit from meeting with an advocate at VPR, ask them if this is an option they are interested in and support whatever they decide. If they would like to meet with someone at VPR, ask how they would like to be connected. We can be contacted using our online form, our helpline (617-253-2300), or our email (email@example.com). They can reach out to us independently, or you can make an email introduction. Out of concern for safety, privacy, and self-determination, we will not reach out to someone unless they come to us or are directly connected to us. If you are supporting someone who has experienced harm, please know that VPR advocates are here for you as well. An advocate can offer guidance on how to support a friend and support your own emotional wellbeing during what is often a challenging experience. You never have to be in this alone.
Learn more about our confidentiality policy on our confidentiality page.
You can always meet with an advocate over the phone or over Zoom. We can also meet with you in the office, depending on what MIT’s COVID policies allow and what feels most comfortable for you. If none of these options work, we can find a solution together.
Sometimes, people like to walk to the VPR office with a friend. Please feel free to do that! However, we recommend sitting down with an advocate alone, at least at the very beginning of the visit. We want to make sure the time is focused on you and your needs, and some people find that we end up speaking about information they’d rather keep private. However, at VPR, we like to offer choice when we can. If after the first few minutes, you’d still prefer for your friend to be there, they are welcome.
A Safety Plan is just that—a plan to keep you safer than you would be otherwise. We safety plan all the time without realizing it! For example, you (hopefully) buckle your seatbelt when driving. You aren’t planning to crash, but you wear it just in case. A good safety plan helps you identify risk (emotional, physical, financial, or any other form of risk) and mobilize your strengths and support system in a plan that mitigates that risk. For example, if you know that you struggle with painful feelings at night, you might identify coping strategies that work for you ahead of time. If someone is stalking you, you might take many actions, including telling those you live with or near what this person looks like so they know not to let them into the building. To function well, your safety plan must be specific to your situation, build off what you know about your own life, and change with your circumstances. Abuse of any kind is not your fault or within your control, but it can be empowering and safer to identify what is in your control and use that to your benefit. At VPR, we can help you build a safety plan that works for you.
This is an important question to ask yourself and there are resources available to support you in this personal work. While VPR is for those who have experienced harm and the people supporting them, you might consider turning to IDHR (not confidential, but private) or one of MIT’s confidential resources. We also encourage you to look into off-campus resources, such as therapists who specialize in this area and dedicated transformative justice groups both local and digital. For example, the 10 to 10 Helpline is a free, anonymous, and confidential option for those concerned that they may be harming their partner.