Skip to main content

Offer support: How to respond to a disclosure of student sexual violence

You don't need to be an expert to support someone who has experienced sexual violence, and it's okay to not have all the answers. Read below for some helpful tips on providing support.

If someone discloses an incident of sexual violence, listen and validate the person’s experience. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there are services to support them.

Any university member who receives a disclosure from a student should:

  • Encourage the student to schedule a confidential consultation meeting with the Gender-based Violence Specialist in the Human Rights office, who will ensure the student receives all the necessary information, supports and resources they need.
  • Alert the individual to this page or to the Student Sexual Violence Policy and Procedures (including to the list of on-campus and off-campus resources).
  • In the event that there is an immediate threat of physical harm to the survivor or someone else in the university community, contact the Office of Campus Safety at 905.721.8668 ext. 2400 or 905.721.3211 (24 hours).

Ideas on how to give a supportive response

Listen: Be an active listener when someone discloses to you, and do not ask about additional details. Respect what they are willing to share with you.

Thank them for sharing with you: Thank the individual for being comfortable sharing and disclosing their experience to you.

Believe: Tell the individual that it is not their fault and that you believe them.

Empathize: Practice empathy. Understand that this person is sharing a traumatic experience with you, and validate what they are going through.

Ask if there are ways you can support them: Each person has different support needs. Asking this question lets the individual know they are in control of whichever supports (if any) they choose to access, and that you are ready to support them in that decision-making process. 

Things to avoid

Victim blaming: Under no circumstances should survivors be held responsible for acts of sexual violence. This includes asking things like "What were you wearing?" or "How much did you have to drink?" 

Criticizing the survivor's actions: Survivors are in the best position to define their own needs. It is invalidating to question or criticize a survivor's actions before, during, or after experiencing sexual and/or domestic violence.

Sympathizing with the offender: Avoid saying things that could justify the perpetrator's actions, as this will dehumanize and invalidate a survivor.


All disclosures made to anyone at Ontario Tech should be kept confidential. 

When speaking with an individual who has experienced sexual violence, ask the individual how they can best be supported and request their consent to connect them to resources such as the Human Rights office’s Gender-based Violence Specialist.

You can also reach out to the Human Rights office for more guidance on the best ways to support someone while maintaining confidentiality.


We recognize that receiving a disclosure can affect you as well. There are services available to provide you with emotional support as you provide effective support for someone else.


  • Student Mental Health Servicesis committed to supporting your mental health in a variety of ways, including therapy, peer support, groups, self-help resources and more. 
  • Good2Talk offers a free, confidential helpline providing post-secondary students in Ontario with professional counselling, information and referrals for mental health, addictions and well-being.
    • Call 1.866.925.5454 (24/7 helpline)
    • Text GOOD2TALKON to 686868


  • Ontario Tech offers the Employee Assistance Program (EFAP). Call 1.844.671.3327 (24/7), or visit