There are no easy answers to this complex situation as someone’s privacy is being disrespected at a time when, if the rumor is true, they most need to have a sense of control. Do not assume that what you heard was said by someone well-intended as rumors and taking sides can easily get out of hand within a small college community. Wake Forest University has a zero tolerance for retaliation against any person making a complaint of sexual misconduct or any person cooperating in the investigation of any allegation of sexual misconduct and it is important to report any incident of retaliation related to sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator or the Office of the Dean of Student Services.
When interpersonal violence becomes gossip, it is especially difficult to broach the subject with a close friend. You may want to let your friend know what you heard and ask them if they want to talk about it. If they say yes, treat them the same way you would have if they had volunteered the information. If they say no, respect their wishes, reassure them that you will not continue to share the story, and ask how your friend would like you to respond if you hear it again from others. This will give your friend an opportunity to regain some control and will give you a better idea of how to respond. However, before you decide to ask your friend about the rumor, double check your motives. Whether the individual is a survivor of interpersonal violence, or solely of rumors, what they need is friendship, not an additional invasion of their privacy.