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How can I support someone who discloses sexual assault or sexual harassment?

It's important to know how to respond if a student or staff member discloses a sexual assault or sexual harassment to you.

After disclosing the assault

The victim needs to:

  • be believed
  • feel safe
  • be assured that it isn’t their fault
  • be informed about support and options for formal reporting
  • be allowed to take control and make decisions that are in their best interest at the time ( these choices and decisions may and can change)

Things you can do to help

It's important that you:

  • listen, don’t judge
  • believe, be there and give comfort
  • listen to what the person has to say
  • try not to interrupt or ask lots of questions
  • let them tell you at their own pace. Don’t worry if they stop talking for a while. Silences are OK – you don’t have to rush to fill them with words.
  • thank them for trusting you to confide in when they've finished speaking

Allow them to make decisions about what to do next.

However well-intentioned you may be, don’t force the person to make a decision.

Some things you can say

  • I’m sorry that this happened to you. What do you need right now?
  • Is there someone I can call for you?
  • What do you want to happen?

Unhelpful things to say

  • Were you drunk/stoned?
  • What were you doing there?
  • What were you wearing?
  • You know what s/he’s like, you shouldn’t have gone out with her/him.
  • Why didn’t you fight back?
  • Why didn’t you tell someone earlier?

Acknowledge your feelings and get support for yourself.

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