How to Respond to a Disclosure if you are a Member of the University Community
A Nipissing University Community member may disclose an experience of sexual violence to you, regardless of your role, or position in the University. The following information provides some general dos and don’ts to assist you if someone discloses their experience of sexual violence to you:
- Listen to the individual with respect and understanding
- Believe what they are telling you as true
- Communicate that sexual violence is never the responsibility of the survivor
- Recognize that what the individual is experiencing can be traumatic, and they may have difficulty recalling all information from the event
- Respect how much they choose to disclose, and whatever they choose as right for them, which may or may not be to receive support, or report to police
- Provide immediate assistance in the case of a medical emergency or current threat; this may be contacting Campus Security Services or the Police
- Share information about and refer to Counselling Services and other services available on- and off-campus
- Provide accommodations to the needs of the individual in your courses and/or services
- Ensure confidentiality with the individual if there is no current risk of harm to self or others. Do not promise to keep things private if there is any perceived serious risk to the individual or to others, including thoughts or plans of suicide, or if you have reason to believe there is a serious risk to other individuals on campus
- Judge the individual; believe what they are saying to you and take the disclosure seriously
- Ask questions about details of the sexual violence, the survivor’s sexual history, or for any other details that assume the individual might have been responsible/assume that the accused “misunderstood” the survivor
- Try to identify an alleged perpetrator
- Provide therapy to the individual (unless you are licensed to provide this, and it is your role on campus)
- Impose sanctions if anyone has been identified to you as a perpetrator (unless this is your role on campus)
- Talk to others about the individual or the sexual violence disclosure, excluding what is required to ensure the safety of the individual when there is a threat of harm to self or others
- Try to change the decision of the survivor with regard to reporting options, or impose your opinions of what they should do
How to Support a Friend or Family Member
Here are a few suggestions of how you can support a friend or family member who shares their experience of sexual violence.
1. Listen – Allow the person time to share with you what information they feel comfortable sharing. Be supportive and listen non-judgmentally without interrupting. Don’t try to give advice; just listen and empathize that what they have experienced is very painful.
2. Respect their Feelings -- Acknowledge that it may have taken a lot of courage for them to approach you. They may not act or feel like themselves and may be experiencing a range of emotions, such as confusion, guilt, anxiety, or sadness. Recognize that everyone may have a different reaction to trauma; some people may be tearful, while other may be ‘flat’.
3. Don’t pry for information and keep questions to a minimum – They may not be comfortable sharing all of the details with you. Sharing details before they are ready may be harmful to them. Avoid questioning on blaming them, and let them share at their own pace. Don’t ask for more details about the sexual violence unless it is directly related to safety, or if there is any perceived current or future threat of harm.
4. If appropriate, encourage them to seek help – Reassure them that they can inform University Security, the local police and/or to seek medical attention, if they haven’t already. Offer to support them in contacting a Counsellor or Crisis Line if they need to talk to a professional. Additionally, respect any choice that the survivor may make about support or reporting as their version of justice may differ from your own.
5. Be patient – It might take some time to get back to “normal.” This can be a stressful time for people supporting an individual who experienced sexual violence. Take care of yourself and access services if needed. If you are unsure what supports to access as a supporter, the Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Coordinator can help.