Believe: survivors of sexual assault often worry that they will not be believed. Tell the survivor 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 he would do that!' When a survivor feels believed, you have helped them start the process of dealing with their experience.
Actively listen to the survivor: 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 survivor is saying and what he or she needs.
Be aware of your body language: empathetic words have to be supported by empathetic body language. Recognise that a survivor may not feel comfortable with physical contact, and be aware that this may not be appropriate, particularly in a work environment.
Use responses that are genuine: Use supportive phrases such as 'You did not ask for this to happen, you trusted this person.' Communicate that survivors are never to blame for an assault.
Ongoing support following a disclosure
If you have received a disclosure from a friend or colleague, you might want to know more about how to support him or her in the subsequent weeks and months.
Rape Crisis Scotland has produced a suite of excellent resources. Of particular value might be Information For Friends and Information For Young People Supporting Friends.