Supporting someone who has been affected by bullying, harassment, victimisation or discrimination

If someone discloses information about bullying, harassment, victimisation or, discrimination, they are placing a great deal of trust in you and it is very important to respond sensitively and supportively.

Some key points to remember:

  • Don’t panic if you receive a disclosure – try not to look shocked or upset, keep calm, and maintain an open mind.
  • Recognise and acknowledge how difficult it can be to make a disclosure – it takes a great deal of courage to do so.
  • Don't be judgmental, show disbelief, or use 'victim-blaming' language; use language such as 'I believe you' and 'Thank you for choosing to share this with me'.
  • Don't probe for excessive details about what happened - if they want to disclose this, they will, and if they want to make a formal report they will be asked to provide that level of detail at that point.
  • Remember your job is not to be an investigator. It is simply to be supportive, to make the person feel validated, to ask them what they want to happen next, and to refer them to the right sources of support.
  • Don't try to 'fix the problem' – you can't. What you can do is show that you believe them and ask them what they want to happen next.
  • Refer them to the right place: provide them with information about professional support available in the University or provided via external agencies. Have a look at the information on this website about support that is available.
  • Don't force them to make a formal report or speak to the police - that's their choice.
  • If you are a member of staff, keep a factual record of your discussion with the person making the disclosure. Only record the facts; do not include your own opinions or subjective statements. Record any guidance you gave e.g. referrals.
  • Be aware that, if the case goes to Court, you could be called as a witness and your notes will be important evidence. Always be happy that your notes are clear and accurate, as you may be asked to verify what you have written.
  • Any notes you take should be saved securely and confidentially in line with University guidance on retention of notes.
  • If they feel the incident could be a hate crime, refer to our dedicated page on hate crime.  

Get urgent assistance

If the situation is an emergency, i.e. someone is at risk of harm from a perpetrator, call 999. If it is not an immediate emergency, then call 101.

An empathetic response is important.

Believe: victims may feel their issue will not be taken seriously or believed. Tell them directly, 'I believe you.' Try not to ask questions that sound like you don’t believe their story - for example, questions that start with 'Why did you…' or 'I can't believe that would happen!'

Actively listen: it is natural for the responder to get involved in their own thoughts and feelings about what they are hearing. However, it is important to stay focused on what the person you are with is saying and what they need.

Be aware of your body language: empathetic words have to be supported by empathetic body language.  Nod you head to show understanding and or support, keep your arms to your side rather than crossed in front of you and maintain eye contact to show they have your attention. 

Use responses that are genuine: Use supportive phrases such as 'You did not ask for this to happen.' Communicate that this incident or crime is not their fault and they have been brave to come forward.

Support for you if you are supporting a friend or colleague

If you are providing support to someone it’s important to take the time to also look after yourself as well.

If you are a student you can speak to our Student Support Services team and members of staff can access the Employee Assistance Programme or visit the staff health and wellbeing webpages.