Supporting a survivor of sexual and gender based violence
Responding effectively and appropriately to a disclosure of sexual violence
Anyone can create a safe place for a survivor of sexual violence to discuss their experience. If you are disclosed to, it is not your role to be a counsellor, rather to provide an appropriate response that empowers a survivor to SEEK what they need. This is done by providing:
- A Safe space to talk
- An Empowering attitude
- An Empathetic response
- Your Knowledge sources of support in the University and externally
There are some excellent resources which provide simple, easy to follow guidelines on how to respond effectively if you receive a disclosure. Have a look at this article in The Conversation for more information.
Some key points to remember
In an emergency
If you're off campus, you should call 999 to reach any of the emergency services.
If you're on campus, call the Security Team any time, 24/7 on x2222 (on an internal phone) or 01786 467999 if using your mobile phone to request the Police.
If you need an ambulance, dial 999 directly to speak to a call handler. Once you have done so, call the Security Team on x 2222 or 01786 467999 as before to advise them that an ambulance will be arriving.
An empathetic response is really important
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.