Disclosures of sexual violence require an enormous amount of trust. If someone chooses you as their confidant, you do not want to violate that trust by responding inappropriately. Whether they are disclosing sexual harassment in a California workplace or a sexual assault, you can help them by following these four tips.
Understand different reactions
People respond to sexual harassment and assault in different ways. When they disclose what happened, they may be struggling with their emotions openly or appear perfectly calm. Often, people experience numbness as a result of surviving sexual violence.
Provide nonjudgmental responses
One of the most important ways to respond to a disclosure of sexual violence is to remain nonjudgmental. Specifically, these guidelines help you respond in a caring and safe way:
- Let them know you believe them.
- Listen without interrupting.
- Address any immediate safety concerns.
- Assist them with any needed medical care.
- Let them disclose their experience at their own pace.
Specific workplace sexual violence concerns
If the disclosure occurs at work, you must also consider legal ramifications in your responses. Your responses should include:
- Provide information about confidentiality.
- Secure all personal contact information from other co-workers.
- Treat all information in the disclosure confidentially.
- Refer them to a specialist who understands the workplace’s sexual violence policy.
- Offer information about local sexual violence services for additional assistance.
Reporting vs. disclosing
A disclosure does not constitute a formal report. However, depending on your role, the location of the disclosure and your job title, you may be required to report the disclosure due to California law. If the law does not require you to do so, the person making the disclosure needs to be aware that they have the option to make a formal complaint. However, they should never feel pressured to make a report during their disclosure.