It takes a great deal of courage for someone who has experienced sexual violence to disclose their experiences to someone else. 

We know – from survivors, lived experience and research – that an initial supportive and non-judgmental response to a disclosure of sexual violence can make a significant difference on the survivor’s desire and ability to seek out further, ongoing supports.  

In other words, when survivors experience negative, victim-blaming, minimizing and/or dismissive responses when disclosing their experiences for the first time, their fears around not being believed and not being supported come true, and they often decide to remain silent.  

Many survivors never talk about their experience with a counselor or other professional support; instead, they seek someone they trust and are familiar with – a friend, work colleague, residence don, teaching assistant, family member, and so on.   

You do not need to be an expert at responding! And it is okay to be nervous!  

Everyone on campus can:

  • Listen, and be supportive
  • Assure survivors that it was not their fault
  • Be non-judgmental about the survivor's reactions and decisions, during and after, their experience of violence
  • Explain what supports are available on campus and refer to the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO)

Everyone on campus should be prepared to respond to a disclosure. The more we keep practicing our response skills, the better and more comfortable we will be doing it.  

The following information offers some best practices for responding to disclosures. 

What is a disclosure? And how does it differ from a complaint or report?

There are many reasons why someone who has experienced sexual violence would disclose and these might include: 

  • seeking assistance or emotional support
  • seeking justice and accountability
  • wanting to raise awareness about sexual violence in the community
  • wanting to protect themselves or others from future violence

Disclosing does not automatically mean that a survivor needs to file a Complaint or Report.  

Should someone wish to file a Complaint or Report, we recommend they be connected with SVPRO for further information.  

Best practices for responding to a disclosure