Supporting someone who has been sexually assaulted

What to do if someone discloses an allegation of sexual assault to you

Supporting a student who alleges sexual assault can have a major influence on their recovery, willingness to talk to the police and to seek medical and counselling services.ANU strives to provide a safe, supportive and caring environment free from unwanted sexual attention.

This document provides guidance for ANU students on responding to an allegation of sexual assault and is consistent with guidance provided to all ANU staff via the Staff Protocol for Responding to an Allegation of Recent Sexual Assault

1. Listen & support

Remain calm and provide an empathic response. Find a quiet safe place so that you can listen to the student. Ask for help from a staff member if needed.

It is the student's choice as to who they talk to and how they deal with their situation. Your role is to support them to make decisions for themselves.

2. Establish immediate safety

If after listening to the student you determine that there is an immediate danger from the alleged perpetrator (or others) or an immediate medical or physical emergency.

  • Call 000 and report the incident to emergency services.
  • Or if the incident is on campus, call ANU Security 02 6125 2249.

3. Consider informing an appropriate staff member

It is important that you involve the student in deciding how a report is made and who is informed, but also recognise that you are not responsible for the decisions made by the student. 

The following are appropriate staff members you could approach for guidance.

Some important points:

  • Inform the student that the staff member will respect the student's right to be in control of the decisions affecting them, especially their right to decide whether to seek police, legal, medical or counselling support.
  • Offer to approach one of them on behalf of the student, or accompany the student to meet with the staff member if they wish.

4. Provide information about options

The best support you can give is to help the student access the support they choose for themselves.

Counselling

  • The Canberra Rape Crisis Centre is available on 02 6247 2525. 7am-11pm, 7 days/week.
  • After 11pm the student can contact a counsellor at Forensic and Medical Sexual Assault Care (FAMSAC) on 02 6247 2184 or the police on 131 444.
  • 1800RESPECT. 24 hours, 7days. Information and support for people who have experienced sexual assault or domestic and family violence.
  • The ANU Counselling Centre on 02 6125 2442. Between 9am-5pm Monday to Friday provides counselling and referral for students who have experienced sexual assault.

Medical support

Forensic and Medical Sexual Assault Care (FAMSAC) at Canberra Hospital provides forensic and medical sexual assault care to people who have been sexually assaulted. A forensic medical examination may be conducted up to 5 days after a sexual assault.

FAMSAC provides a 24 hour, 365 day a year service. Access the on-call doctor through:

  • Canberra Rape Crisis Centre (CRCC) 7am-11pm 7 days per week on 02 6247 2525.
  • Canberra Hospital switch board available 24 hours on 02 6244 2222.
  • Australian Federal Police on 131 444.

The ANU Health Centre can also assist via 02 6125 3598.

5. Self-care & seeking support for yourself

Having someone disclose an allegation of sexual assault to you can be confronting and difficult to process emotionally.

It is recommended that you look after your own mental health and talk to a trained counsellor, for example through the ANU Counselling Centre.

How to support someone who has been accused of sexual assault

Here are a few ways you might help someone in this situation:

  • Listen to them, and as above, refrain from judgement, commentary or choosing sides.
  • Provide information about their options for seeking additional support. In particular you should mention Mensline (24 hours on 1300 789 978), Canberra Rape Crisis Centre (7am-11pm, 7 days on 6247 2525), Canberra Men's Centre (6230 6999) the ANUSA/PARSA Legal Officer, the ANU Counselling Service (9am-5pm Monday to Friday, 6125 2442), the ANU Health Service (6125 3598) and the Dean of Students (6125 4184).

The most helpful thing you can do is to keep the conversation firmly focussed on support options and avoid discussing the details of the alleged assault.