When someone experiences sexual assault or harassment, the people they choose to talk to about it play a vital role.

Some survivors wish to disclose their experience while other survivors choose to disassociate from the experience and avoid recognition or engagement with the topic. All of these reactions are normal and it’s important to support a survivor in making choices that feel comfortable to them.

It can be difficult to know how to respond and you may be unsure about how to help. Read the steps below or download our guide (PDF, 285KB) to make sure that your response is non-judgemental, compassionate and supportive. 

1. Listen

The experience and impact of sexual assault and misconduct is personal, traumatic and different for everyone. As a supporter, you should provide a safe and supportive environment for the individual to tell their story.

Make sure you don’t

  • interrupt them
  • ask why questions as these can be interpreted as blame
    • Why were you walking alone?
    • Why were you wearing that?
    • Why did you go see them?
  • talk about your own experiences, it’s important that they feel their story has been heard and that you aren’t passing judgement on their experience

Show that you are listening by

  • giving the speaker your full attention
  • ignoring external interruptions
  • nodding occasionally to show understanding and support 
  • encouraging the speaker with small verbal supports such as yes and I understand

Need emergency support?

If you are experiencing an emergency or have just experienced sexual assault and misconduct then you can call:

  • 000 for immediate police or ambulance assistance
  • UQ Security +61 7 3365 3333 for on campus emergencies
  • 1800 Respect 1800 737 732 for 24/7 counselling support
  • The National University Support Line on 1800 572 224