Supporting someone who has been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted
Attend to safety - Check if there are any immediate safety concerns. You can ask: “Do you feel safe?" "Do you need any medical attention?”
Remember: Call 000 for ambulance or police in an emergency. Call 000, THEN call JCU Security if the incident is on-campus 1800 675 559
Listen and be supportive - It can be very hard for someone to disclose sexual harassment or sexual assault. Give the person your full attention. Speak calmly, let them tell you at their own pace, without interrupting or asking direct questions about the experience. Silences are ok - you don't have to rush in with words. Letting someone take charge of what they disclose also enables them to reclaim some of the control that has been taken away.
Believe them - One thing people fear most after they experience sexual harassment or sexual assault is that they won't be believed. Don't question the person's account. Do not ask ‘why’ questions - these questions carry blame and judgement. You may find that the person's narrative is disjointed and has inconsistencies; this can be an effect of distress or trauma and not an indication that they are being untruthful. Remember that sexual harassment and sexual assault is never the fault of the person who has been subjected to it.
Maintain confidentiality - It is up to the person to decide who they tell, when and how, and they are trusting you to respect that. Treat what is shared with you confidentially, do not share with others without permission. You can report an incident to JCU that someone has disclosed to you without breaching confidentiality, and there are specific instructions on how to do that here..
Refer to support - Remember you do not have to have all, or any of the answers - and it is not helpful to try and find out all of the details. The best thing you can do is assist the person to connect with those who can help, including with the specialist Sexual Assault Services, and JCU's Sexual Misconduct Officers, as required.
Take care of yourself - It can be confronting to support someone impacted by sexual harassment or sexual assault. You can call the Specialist Sexual Assault Services to confidentially debrief. Students can also debrief with a counsellor at Student Equity and Wellbeing and staff can call the Employee Assistance Program - Lifeworks on 1800 604640. JCU's Sexual Misconduct Officers can provide support to you whilst you are supporting a person who has disclosed to you.
The following resource provides guidance if you are supporting someone who has been sexually harassed.