It isn’t easy for someone to disclose that they have been sexually assaulted. How you react to their disclosure can have a significant influence on how they make sense of what has happened to them, and could affect what they do or do not do next. You thus have an opportunity to empower the survivor and assist them in their path forward and in accessing additional supports. Here are some ways that you can give a helpful, supportive response:
Listen. Be patient and let them tell you as little or as much as they want at their own pace, without interrupting. Talking about how they feel can be as helpful or more helpful than talking about details. Take their lead on this, and avoid saying phrases such as “I would have done this...” or “you should have…”.
Believe. Validate their feelings and assure them that these are normal reactions to a very traumatic event, and avoid promising them that everything will be okay. Assure them that it was not their fault and if possible, stay with them or fine someone they trust who can be with them.
Empower. You can help them regain control by trusting them to make their own choices about what to do next. You don’t need to do everything for them; your role is to help them get connected to appropriate resources and supports.
Responding to Disclosures
The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Advocate has developed a reference guide for faculty and staff to help you respond to disclosures of Sexualized Violence. Inside you will find tips on how to respond supportively, information on formal disclosing and reporting options, and a list of support services available on and off campus.
Hearing disclosures of sexual violence can be difficult. The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Advocate is available to support members of the campus community after they have responded to disclosures as needed.
Download the guide here.
You can contact the SVPRA at @email or 902-867-5601.