Supporting someone else
If someone discloses to you that they have experienced sexual assault or harassment, it can be difficult to know what to say or do.
It can also be an extremely upsetting and difficult time for you.
The University has the resources to help you through the initial contact and to provide ongoing support, as well as the systems to ensure you are okay afterwards as well.
Important steps for when someone discloses sexual misconduct
- Find an appropriate space
- Establish safety
- Listen and show empathy
- Provide support options
- Practice self care
Find an appropriate space
Take the victim/survivor to an appropriate space to hear their disclosure. This means finding a space where the victim/survivor feels comfortable so that you can talk confidentially.
Identify whether there is an immediate threat to the victim/survivor. If you determine there is an immediate danger from the alleged perpetrator or the victim/survivor needs immediate medical attention then contact Security ((02) 49215888) or NSW Police (000).
Listen and show empathy
When someone makes a disclosure about sexual misconduct, the first response is often critical in their recovery and decisions about what to do next. Your role is to assist them to access the services they require and support the decisions that they make.
When listening there are three key messages to give:
- I believe you.
- This is not your fault.
- Let's get you connected with specialised support.
At this stage you can offer to support the victim/survivor to consider their options for reporting and support. It is important to confirm that you believe them and will help them access services that they might need. You may wish to show them this webpage, or contact Campus Care for advice.
It is possible, if the victim/survivor reports the incident to the police, that the Police may contact you for information disclosed to you by the victim/survivor. It is therefore vital to record details of the conversation rather than rely on your memory alone. It is essential you write everything down, using the victim/survivor’s own words as best you can. It may be insensitive to write while the victim/survivor is talking to you, but it is important to document the conversation as soon as appropriately possible. It is not necessary or advisable to ask details about what happened. This will be done by a trained professional if the victim/survivor chooses to make a report.
Provide support options
Discuss the support and reporting options available to the victim/survivor. As a student or a staff member receiving a disclosure, it is important to make sure that the victim/survivor has access to any support services or resources that might be helpful, including information about how to report the matter.
Campus Care is a key contact for you and the victim/survivor.
Practice self care
If someone you are close to experiences or discloses sexually based assault or harassment, this can have a significant impact on you. You may experience vicarious trauma, guilt, anger, or changes in your beliefs about the world.
After you have assisted the person who has experienced the sexual assault, it is important that you have your own strategies and support to make sure that you are ok. If needed you can:
- call the Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia 24 hour phone line to debrief or for advice.
- access counselling or mental health services via referral from your GP.
The University is committed to providing evidence-based training to appropriately respond to a disclosure of sexual assault. All staff are able to access online training for Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Violence. The four module course is written by a team with specialist experience in responding to sexual violence. It features interactive activities, scenario-based activities, interviews and video role plays with professionals trained in responding to disclosures. You can access this training through the University's Discover Training portal.
Contact Campus Care for any special accessibility or language translation need you may have.
The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.