Responding to Disclosures

There’s no timeframe or textbook when it comes to responding or recovering from sexual violence. It is different for every survivor. If someone has trusted you enough to disclose their experience of sexual violence to you, this has taken a lot of courage and strength.

Consider the following ways to respond to their disclosure:

  • Provide them a Safe space to tell their experience, in their own time and in their own words. Just listen.
  • ‘I believe you’. It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned, confused or worried they’ll be blamed.
  • You don’t have to fill the silences, just breathe with them and let them have a moment to think.
  • Remember body language, your tone of voice and eye contact is very important.
  • Don’t ask questions for your own curiosity or as any ‘why’ questions, these will come across as victim blaming. Leave the questions to the police, if they choose to report.  
  • ‘It’s not your fault, You didn’t do anything to deserve this.’ Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.​
  • Convey empathy not sympathy
  • Avoid judgment. Without knowing you may be projecting your belief of the Myths that exist in society around sexual violence.
  • “You are not alone. Support is available’  Let the survivor know that  they have reporting and non reporting options available to them and they there are specialist support services available too.
  • Check in periodically. The event may have happened a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean the pain is gone. Check in with the survivor to remind them you still care about their well-being and believe them.


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