Supporting a friend: Responding to disclosures of sexual offences

How you can support someone who has experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment

Research indicates a person’s first experience in sharing their sexual offence story influences their healing journey.

Professionals recommend a trauma-informed (opens in a new window) approach. This helps survivors regain control and normalise their experiences.

  • Assure you and they are safe now and in the future. This includes self-care.
  • Listen patiently with an open mind - without judgement, questions or unrealistic promises.
  • Provide options and resources if you feel you can. This might be an offer to listen and/or a few phone numbers to call (such as Lifeline, 1800 RESPECT or the University Counselling Service. See the Support page (opens in a new window) for more).
  • Assist them with the next stage of their healing journey. This might mean contacting services together, offering to check in at a later time or checking websites together. Most reporting systems (opens in a new window) welcome reports on behalf of others and services, such as ambulances, accept supporters.

Some key talking points:


This is heard as 

I am sorry for what has happened.

I believe you.

What happened is a crime.

This is not your fault.

I will do what I can to help.

You are not alone.

Download a PDF guideline here (opens in a new window) .

First Responders

Our University community has a network of volunteers (opens in a new window) who are trained in supporting survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Research indicates that person's early disclosure experiences may affect their healing journey. Specifically, a positive disclosure experience may assist in survivors understand that while something happened to them, it does not define them. For more, see here (opens in a new window).

To express interest in joining our First Responder network, contact us (opens in a new window).


Currently, we are developing training with Western's Sexualities and Genders Research (opens in a new window). Express interest in attending a face to face session here (coming soon).

In 2018, training was provided by the Gendered Violence Research Network (UNSW) (opens in a new window)