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Received a Disclosure of Sexual Violence?

When responding to disclosures, it is important to feel as ready as possible. It's normal and okay to feel unsure. Use this acronym for an informed and caring response. 

R. Recognize you are receiving a disclosure.

Begin by listening to the survivor. Recognize not everyone will use the same language to describe what happened to them. Be mindful to let them lead the conversation and not ask for details of their experience. If your position requires, let them know about any mandatory reports before they proceed.

Try... " Before you continue, I want to be transparent. Because I am ____, my job requires me to fill out a report about what you are telling me. Do you want to hear a bit more about that looks like before we continue?"

E. Empathize with what you are hearing.

 Empathy goes a long way. Say things like "It sounds like this has been incredibly hard for you." and "I believe you." Remind them that no matter what happened, it’s not their fault. Create a plan for checking in / following up. Ask "how can I support you going forward?" Recognize that disclosing can be traumatic but avoid making assumptions about what they are feeling.

Use "because" statements. For example "I can see why you feel scared to tell someone, because last time you did you weren't supported."

A. Appreciate the strength it took to disclose, and the ways they have survived so far.

All survival strategies are valid. Even if it's different from how you chose to cope.

D. Direct them to resources with their consent.

With their consent, direct them to some supports and resources that may be useful. Be prepared - knowing what is available and the best ways to offer those referrals. This can sound like ..."I really appreciate you telling me all of this. How can I support you? I do know a few resources I could tell you about if you feel comfortable."

Y. You matter!

Take care of you and your needs. Engage in community and self care. Hearing a disclosure of sexual violence may be difficult for you. Support is available for you as well.

Things Not to Do…

✘ Never minimize, question or deny their experience.

✘ Do not ask for details of the experience; do not document details of what you are told.

✘ Do not make promises you cannot keep; let the survivor know you will help them if they want but do not guarantee certain outcomes.

✘ Do not touch them without their consent.

✘ Do not make decisions for the survivor. You’re not living the experience of the survivor.

✘ Do not say you understand what the survivor is going through; validate thoughts and feelings by saying things like “many survivors feel that way” or “it’s common to think like that.”

✘ Do not think you’re going to ‘save the day’ or solve the survivor’s problems in a short time.

Need Help Right Now?

Gendered and Sexual Violence Prevention and Supports:

24 Hour Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Lines:

  • Waterloo: 519.741.8633
  • Brantford: 519.751.3471


  • 911

Special Constable Services:

  • Waterloo: 519.885.3333 (external phones) or x3333 (on-campus phones)
  • Brantford: 519.770.3778 (external phones) or x3333 (on-campus phones)
Download SAFEHawk App

Your Limits to Confidentiality

If you receive a disclosure of sexual violence, it is important that you inform the person making the disclosure of your commitment to keep confidential all information that is provided.

It is also important to inform the person disclosing information that there are limits to confidentiality.

Explore Campus and Community Resources

An important part of supporting an individual who has been impacted by gendered or sexual violence is to provide them with accurate information about their options and the resources that are available to them. It can sometimes feel hard or overwhelming to navigate resources or systems after experiencing gendered or sexual violence. An important part of supporting someone who has disclosed to you is to assist them in finding resources that they want or need.

Before exploring options, ask, “Are you interested in me sharing with you some resources that could be useful to you?” Do not assume that the survivor wants resources or isn’t already accessing them. Do not pressure a survivor to access further assistance if they do not want to.

You are encouraged to refer the individual to our office at If the person making the disclosure needs support with the referral, get their consent to email our office and CC the survivor in the communication.

If you are in need of support outside of regular university hours, or wish to make an appointment with on-campus counsellors from the local sexual assault support centres, contact:


The Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region 24-hour support line: call 519.741.8633.

On-Campus Sexual Assault Support Centre Counselling: call 519.571.0121 or fill out their online intake form.


The Sexual Assault Centre of Brant 24-hour crisis and support line: call 519.751.3471.

Resources for You

“Self-care is about creating and maintaining practices that help you sustain your energy and spirit in whatever life path you choose. It also makes you a better friend, community member, lover, partner and caregiver. When you give to others but neglect yourself, feelings of resentment can arise because you sacrifice your own needs.”

Farrah Khan, Caring for Yourself Is a Radical Act

Laurier’s Gendered and Sexual Violence Prevention and Supports operates on the sacred and traditional land of the Anishnawbe, Haudenosaunee, and Neutral peoples.