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Active* Consent and USI’s 2020 national Sexual Experiences Survey revealed that 79% of college students who disclose sexual misconduct (rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment) told a close friend.
Where would you start if a friend disclosed to you? What about a student, or a colleague?
What would you say? Where might you tell them to go?
Download our full campaign Start Here Tips Card.
Don’t ask “Were you drunk?/Are you sure?/ Why did you go home with them?” - That sounds like you think it’s their fault. Try to listen without judgement.
Don’t say things like “I’ll kill them!” - Hearing about someone’s negative sexual experience can be upsetting - but take a breath and try to focus on their feelings, instead of your own.
Don’t rush them into sharing anything they don’t want to - They might just tell you a bit, or they may tell you the whole story.
Don’t say “You have to report it!”- Pushing someone to take action they don’t want can be disempowering and re-traumatising.
Do say “I believe you”- Opening up about a negative sexual experience can be stressful. Let the person know you are listening, you believe them and will support them.
Do ask “What do you want to do next?” - They might not know what they want to do right away, but what happens next needs to be their choice.
Do ask “How can I help?” - You could offer to find out about support services like student counselling, SU Welfare Officer, the local Rape Crisis Centre or Sexual Assault Treatment Unit. Even just listening to the person can make a huge difference.
Do look after yourself - Hearing about someone’s negative sexual experience can be very difficult. Make time for your own self-care and mental wellbeing.
Request tips cards for yourself, your institution or friend group: email@example.com
View all the “Start Here” videos on the Active* Consent YouTube Channel.
I Believe You: Why Your Role Hearing a Disclosure Matters
We know from the Active* Consent and USI Sexual Experiences Survey that high percentages of Irish college students have experienced sexual violence and harassment
% of students that have experienced non-consensual penetration through incapacitation, force or threat of force.
% of students that have experienced some form of sexual harassment since starting college.
For survivors of sexual violence and harassment, telling someone about what happened to you can be really scary. We know from our research that many different factors stop young people from telling anyone about a negative sexual experience.
Reasons why students did not disclose a negative sexual experience.
For survivors, the first experience of disclosure is so important. Getting a negative reaction from the person they tell can severely affect how they feel about what happened, and how they deal with the aftermath of the incident. However, showing someone that you believe them and are there to support them can improve their experience dramatically, and have a positive impact on how they deal with what happened (like empowering them to report the incident).
What Do You Want To Do Next?: National Directory of Services for Survivors
People who have experienced sexual violence and harassment have many different options for reporting the incident, as well as mental/physical health support services as they process their experience.
On your campus, you might refer someone who has disclosed to you to:
- Your campus counselling service: Access NUI Galway’s Student Counselling service here.
- Your Student Union Welfare Officer: Contact information for NUI Galway’s Student Union Welfare and Equality Officer here.
- The Dean of Students Office: Contact information for NUI Galway’s Office for the Dean of Students here.
If you are at another college, consult your website for equivalent services at your institution.
Sexual Assault Treatment Units
Sexual Assault Treatment Units are a free service for anyone who has had unwanted sexual contact of any kind, for people of all genders. There are six Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs) across the Republic of Ireland, and they offer survivors lots of different services - like health screenings or forensic exams. If the person you are speaking with wants to seek immediate medical assistance, they can learn about visiting a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit here and access information about the closest unit to your location. SATUs are a free service and can provide survivors with a health check and forensic exam.
If the person who has disclosed to you wants to report the incident to Gardaí, they can find out more information about reporting sexual crimes here. Individuals might also choose to seek counselling at a rape crisis centre. Bear in mind that as someone who received a disclosure, you can also access these services to process your own experience.
Rape Crisis Centre
To find your local rape crisis centre, visit Rape Crisis Help for their national directory. If you are based in Galway, you can contact the Galway Rape Crisis Centre’s site, our campaign partner.
You can also call their helpline 1 800 355 355 (10am-1pm, Monday - Friday).
You can also use the National Rape Crisis Centre 24-hour helpline 1800 77 8888.
Build Your Knowledge: Take the Active* Consent eLearning module, Sexual Violence and Harassment; How To Support Yourself and Your Peers
Our “Start Here” disclosure tips give you basic language and information to support a friend, student or colleague who discloses to you.
If you want to learn more about this issue, take our Active* Consent eLearning module, Sexual Violence and Harassment: How to Support Yourself and Your Peers. This module introduces users to a more nuanced understanding of sexual violence, harassment and support services available to students who have had negative sexual experiences.
This module is free for anyone to access, and takes roughly 30-45 minutes to complete.
To learn more about our eLearning module, click here.
Amplify the “Start Here” Campaign
1. Follow us on social media and share our campaign posts:
2. Tag us in posts you make about the “Start Here” campaign: #starthere #ibelievesurvivors
3. Use our social media gifs and stickers to show your support for the “Start Here” campaign, available on Instagram.
To hear more about the story of "Start Here"
To learn more about Active* Consent, USI and GRCC’s work in this area, visit:
- Listen to this episode of the Glow West podcast with Dr. Caroline West.
For more information about the “Start Here” Campaign or how to work directly with Active* Consent, email firstname.lastname@example.org