Responding to a Sexual Assault Disclosure:
Tips for Staff and Faculty
Helpful Immediate Responses and Referral
As a first point of contact, it is important
to provide sensitive care and support to ensure that the student
re-traumatized as a result of reporting the incident.
When you are made aware of a sexual assault, your
first responsibility is ALWAYS to ensure the immediate
safety of the student. *The length of
time between the disclosure and the sexual assault does not
Once the student is safe: It is important to
remember that your role is NOT to assess or define the
assault, or to determine whether or not the assault actually
occurred. Your primary responsibility is to remain supportive of
victims, while referring the student to campus or community
agencies that are trained in providing assistance and
intervention for survivors of sexual violence.
You do not have to have all of the answers. If someone is
disclosing to you, it typically means that you are someone they
trust and often times they just want to be heard. Don’t be
afraid to tell them that you don’t know the answers, and use
that as a point of referral. It is not your responsibility to
“fix” the problem.
While you are not expected to act as a counselor,
when you are present with someone who has been assaulted, be
aware that the supportiveness of your response can be critical
in the healing process. Though there is not one “right” way
to respond to someone who has been sexually assaulted, the
following may serve as a guide in identifying more or less
Listen without interrupting. Encourage the
student to take his/her time, if necessary.
Don’t panic. Remain calm and concerned.
Respect the language the student uses to
identify what’s happened.
Understand that individuals from different
cultural backgrounds may express or experience their
reactions to an assault in different ways.
Allow for tears and expression of feelings.
Validate the student’s experiences or
Believe and support the student.
Acknowledge courage and discomfort.
Remind the student that s/he is not at a
Encourage the student to seek medical
attention and/or counseling, however, respect the student’s
choices if they do not wish to do so.
Allow the student to make his/her own
Ask what you can do to be supportive.
Provide resources and options.
“why” questions or other questions that might imply blame.
(i.e. “Why didn’t you yell?” or “What were you
Blaming or judging the student’s actions.
(i.e. “You shouldn’t have had so much to drink.”)
the student’s feelings or minimizing his/her experience.
(i.e. “You should try to just forget about it.”)
Trying to “fix” the problem.
(i.e. pressuring them to report and/or telling
them what to do)
Above all, do
no harm. Sometimes, when individuals feel overwhelmed by
hearing someone's story, people feel "pressured" to do
something. When this occurs, people may unintentionally say
things that can be hurtful. You don't have to say anything.
HOW TO MAKE A REFERRAL:
An important part of being helpful to a survivor
of a sexual assault is providing information about options and
resources. You may do this by helping the student get connected
with one or more of the resources listed below. Some examples of
ways to facilitate a referral for a survivor of sexual assault
are provided below:
am here to listen and support you, but it would also be
helpful for you to
talk to someone who has specialized knowledge in this
if you don’t know what you want to do right now, it can be
helpful to talk to someone
about your options.”
would be happy to go with you to talk to someone.”
would make it feel safe for you to go talk to someone?”
Campus Against Violence Program
Contact: Dr. Kathleen Scott
Guerrieri University Center, Room 263
Holloway Hall 180
Corner of Wayne and Power Street
Office of Student
Guerrieri University Center, Room 212
Life Crisis Center
24 Hour Hotline: 410.479.HELP (4957)
*The Life Crisis Center has multiple locations
throughout Salisbury, MD. You will be given the address when an
appointment is scheduled.
100 E. Carroll Street
Salisbury, MD 21801
Resources Available: Sexual Assault Forensic Exam
Salisbury Police Department
Call 911 – You will be directed to the correct
police department depending on your location
Reprinted with permission from the University of
California – Irvine, Sexual Assault Response Protocol