Note: These tips were developed in partnership with Galway Rape Crisis Centre, and are specially designed for individuals over the age of 17. Mandated persons are not required to follow these guidelines, however they may be helpful in the case of a disclosure. Find out more about Mandated Persons and their role here »
Start here, with our tips for receiving a disclosure.
Don’t ask “Were you drunk?/Are you sure?/ Why did you go home with them?” – That sounds like you think it’s their fault. Try to listen without judgement.
Don’t say things like “I’ll kill them!” – Hearing about someone’s negative sexual experience can be upsetting – but take a breath and try to focus on their feelings, instead of your own.
Don’t rush them into sharing anything they don’t want to – Although it’s normal to want to know what happened, talking about a negative experience can be difficult for survivors. They might just tell you a bit, or they may tell you the whole story – but don’t pressure them into talking about it.
Don’t say “You have to report it!”– Pushing someone to take action they’re not ready to take yet can be disempowering and re-traumatising. Making a formal report should be their choice, so let them know you support them either way.
Do say “I believe you”– Opening up about a negative sexual experience can be stressful. Let the person know you are listening, you believe them and will support them.
Do ask “What do you want to do next?” – They might not know what they want to do right away, but what happens next needs to be their choice.
Do ask “How can I help?” – You could offer to find out about support services like student counselling, SU Welfare Officer, the local Rape Crisis Centre or Sexual Assault Treatment Unit. Even just listening to the person can make a huge difference.
Do look after yourself – Hearing about someone’s negative sexual experience can be very difficult. Make time for your own self-care and mental wellbeing.
“I Believe You”: Why your role hearing a disclosure matters
We know from the Active* Consent and USI Sexual Experiences Survey that high percentages of Irish college students have experienced sexual violence and harassment.
% of 6,000 students in Ireland that have experienced non-consensual penetration through incapacitation, force or threat of force.
% of 6,000 students in Ireland that have experienced some form of sexual harassment since starting college.
For survivors, the first experience of disclosure is so important. Getting a negative reaction from the person they tell can severely affect how they feel about what happened, and how they deal with the aftermath of the incident.
However, showing someone that you believe them and are there to support them can improve their experience dramatically, and have a positive impact on how they deal with what happened (like empowering them to report the incident).
“What do you want to do next?”: A national directory of support services for survivors
People who have experienced sexual violence and harassment have many different options for reporting the incident, as well as mental/physical health support services as they process their experience.
Visit our Help page for support services and helplines for survivors of sexual violence/harassment, and the people supporting them.
Build Your Knowledge: Take the Active* Consent eLearning module, Sexual Violence and Harassment; How To Support Yourself and Your Peers
Our “Start Here” disclosure tips give you basic language and information to support a friend, student or colleague who discloses to you.
If you want to learn more about this issue, take our Active* Consent eLearning module, Sexual Violence and Harassment: How to Support Yourself and Your Peers. This module introduces users to a more nuanced understanding of sexual violence, harassment and support services available to students who have had negative sexual experiences.
This module is free for anyone to access, and takes roughly 30-45 minutes to complete.
To learn more about our eLearning module, click here »