Harmful and helpful reactions to a disclosure

Guidance for responding empathetically to a disclosure of sexual misconduct
Harmful reactions Helpful reactions

Asking direct questions, trying to pull out details or talking incessantly.

Listening to what the victim says without judgment and letting the survivor express themselves in their own way and at their own pace.

Appearing to be sceptical or questioning what the victim/survivor tells you.

Believing what the victim/survivor tells you because it’s their experience and their perception. For the moment, you must focus on what the victim is saying and experiencing.

Trivializing, minimizing or over-dramatizing

Receiving what the survivor says without minimalizing or amplifying the facts, emotions or consequences.

Emphasizing what the victim/survivor could have said or done differently

Encouraging their strengths
Recognizing accomplishments and stress their strength and courage for talking about the traumatic experience.

Blaming the victim for what they did or didn’t do or implying that the survivor is partially responsible for what happened.

Removing guilt
Getting the victim/survivor to understand that it’s not their fault, that the aggressor is completely responsible for their own actions.

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