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, 1.1 MB) to make sure that your response is non-judgemental, compassionate and supportive. 

5. Look after yourself

Remember to take care of yourself. Hearing another person’s experience of sexual assault can be difficult and it’s normal to be impacted by the experience. 

It’s important to be able to recognise when we aren’t coping so that we can also take care of our own wellbeing.

Vicarious Trauma is when we experience negative changes in our internal experiences as a result from the exposure to other people’s trauma. 

You may be experiencing vicarious trauma if you

  • find it difficult to manage your emotions and/or make decisions;
  • feel helpless and powerless;
  • lose a sense of hope or meaning;
  • feel hyper vigilant or on edge;
  • have difficulty sleeping; and
  • feel unusually irritable or angry.

Help manage the impacts of vicarious trauma by engaging with our Sexual Misconduct Support Unit and First Responder Network.

You can also manage the impacts of vicarious trauma by seeking comfort from your own support network and by participating in grounding activities such as exercise or mindfulness.

Need emergency support?

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

  • +61 7 3365 3333 UQ Security for on campus emergencies
  • 000 for immediate police or ambulance assistance
  • 1800 Respect 1800 737 732 for 24/7 counselling support
  • External community support options in Queensland

UQ Respect