Providing support

How to respond when someone discloses an allegation of sexual assault to you. 

    • Find a private place, and allow the person to tell you as little or as much as they want, without interrupting;

    • Be aware that the person may find themselves flooded with emotions. If they are getting increasingly upset while telling you about what happened, ask them to take slow deep breaths, offer a glass of water or a break before continuing with their story;

    • Respect their personal space and do not touch the person. Even if you think the person needs a comforting touch, resist your urge to do so.

    • Validate their feelings and assure them that these are normal reactions to a very traumatic event;

    • Assure them that it was not their fault. It does not matter what the survivor did or did not do before, during, or after the assault – it is never their fault.

    • Ask the person about their support structure (e.g. family, friends, colleagues);

    • Find out if they need medical assistance and encourage them to seek medical care via their general practitioner, ANU Health Service or hospital.

    • Provide them with information about local (College and ANU) support and offer to assist them in accessing these services, rather than telling them what to do or giving advice. If you deem the situation is serious and requires escalation, ask for permission to escalate and contact one of College contact points once consent has been given.

Pitfalls to avoid:

  • A judgmental, shocked or over reactive initial response;

  • Avoid promising them everything will be okay;

  • Questioning the “truth” of a survivor’s story or reactions – especially if he/she seems to be very calm, or doesn’t want to report to University management and/or police;

  • Focusing on your own emotional reaction (e.g. horror, sadness, anger, recalling a similar experience you may have had);

  • Questioning why a survivor did not act in the ways society expects a sexual assault survivor to react (e.g. reporting to management or police, fighting back).

ANU Resources -

  • Forensic and Medical Sexual Assault Care (FAMSAC) from 9am - 5pm on 6244 2185 or after hours on 6244 2222

  • 1800RESPECT 24 hours on 1800 737 732

  • Service Assisting Male Survivors of Sexual Assault Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on 6247 2525 or after hours contact the police on 131 444

  • ANU Counselling services will also be boosted and can be reached on 6125 2442 from 9am-1pm and 2-4.40pm


Updated:  10 August 2021/Responsible Officer:  Dean, CECS/Page Contact:  CECS Marketing