Responding to Disclosures
Anybody can find themselves in the position of responding to a disclosure of sexual violence as a complainant may decide to confide in someone they trust. Please keep in mind that if the individual confiding in you wants to discuss resolution to this incident, the university has a Sexual Harassment Policy and University-Wide Procedures for dealing with the resolutions which state all members of the university community shall consult with the Advisor to obtain advice and guidance regarding possible concerns of sexual harassment including sexual assault and refer individuals to the Advisor.
When a complainant discloses to someone, the responders reaction can set the tone for the reporting experience. Therefore if someone discloses to you that they have experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault, it is important to keep your own feelings and judgements in check. You may be feeling angry that a person was violated in this way or you may be feeling like you're unsure if the comment disclosed to you constitutes sexual harassment. Regardless of your own personal reaction, it is vital to be supportive in your response, avoid questions or statements that are complainant blaming, and connect the individual to our office.
Responding in a supportive manner includes believing the individual, listening with full attention, avoiding any minimization of the incident or of the individual's reaction to the incident, and using the same terminology and pronouns as the individual. At this point, it's helpful to avoid asking questions other than those needed to assess immediate safety and medical concerns. If the individual is in crisis please consult the Sexual Assualt Support and Response Guide applicable to their area, and call the Sexual Harassment Office for guidance, advice and support.
Following this initial assessment, the responders next steps include:
• connect the individual with the Sexual Harassment Office
• ensure the individual is aware of our Sexual Assault Support and Response Guide
• assure them of triple c's confidentiality, control and consent within our office
• advise of the ability of the office to facilitate interim measures and accommodations as well as the ability to facilitate referral to other resources both on and off campus
Always Ask! Ask yourself. Ask others. Ask us.