Supporting the Victim/Survivor

It is important to know how to respond if someone discloses a sexual harm to you. Deakin has a specialised team to support victims/survivors of sexual harm.  There are also legal obligations if the person is under 18 years of age.

How you respond to student or staff member who discloses an assault is important. The best way to provide support to someone who has disclosed sexual harm is to believe them. People rarely make up stories about sexual harm.

After a sexual harm the victim/survivor needs to:

  • be believed
  • feel safe
  • be assured that it wasn’t their fault
  • be informed about support and options for formal reporting
  • Take control of their life and make decisions that are in their best interest at the time (remember that these choices and decisions may and can change).

Things you can do to help:

  • listen, don’t judge
  • Listen to what the person has to say. Try not to interrupt or ask lots of questions
  • Let them tell you at their own pace. Don't worry if they stop talking for a while, silences are OK - you don't have to rush to fill them with words.
  • When they have finished speaking, thank them for trusting you to confide in.
  • Allow the person to make decisions about what to do next.
  • However well-intentioned you might be – do not force the person to make a decision
  • Here are some things you can say:
    "I’m sorry this has happened to you. What do you need right now?”
    “Is there someone I can call for you?”
    “What do you want to happen?”
  • Believe, be there and give comfort
  • Inform and encourage them to seek support

Try not to judge. It is not helpful to say things like:
‘Were you drunk/stoned?’
'What were you doing there?'
‘What were you wearing?”
‘You know what s/he's like, you shouldn't have gone out with her/him.'
‘Why didn’t you fight back?’
“Why didn’t you tell someone earlier?

These questions remove accountability from the perpetrator. The person who has been assaulted is probably thinking the very same thing and blaming themselves for what happened.

Remember - sexual harm is never the fault of the person who has been harmed.

It’s normal to feel upset, even angry, when someone tells you that they have been through something traumatic. Acknowledge your feelings and seek help for yourself when you need it. You can call 1800RESPECT or talk to Safer Community (see below).

If you are a Deakin staff member talk to your manager or Deakin’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP).  

How to access EAP

Sexual harm reporting at Deakin University

Where a member of the Deakin University community receives a disclosure of sexual harm please read the information included in our Reporting Sexual Harm webpage.

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