What is a disclosure?  
A disclosure involves a person sharing an incident or experience of harassment or sexual misconduct. This may be a recent incident, or it may have occurred in the past.  
Every experience and disclosure will be different, and there isn't one specific way to respond. 
You may not recognise a disclosure at first, and the affected person may not use terms such as ‘bullying’, ‘harassment’, ‘assault’ or ‘misconduct’ to describe their experience. However, it is important to listen and allow them to describe their experience in their own words. 
Receiving a disclosure 
Sharing an experience of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct is an act of trust and it is important that you remember that the affected person is not to blame.  
Consider the following when receiving a disclosure:  
  • Think about the space and environment you are in and if it is private and confidential, away from distractions 
  • Encourage them to talk without putting words in their mouth. Be prepared for pauses or long silences 
  • Reassure them it is not their fault, and they are not alone 
  • Focus on listening rather than asking questions. If you do ask questions make sure they are open questions and avoid asking ‘why’ 
  • It is important to believe the person. You are not there to cast judgement 
  • State your boundaries and clarify what kind of support (if any) you can provide going forward 
  • Remind them that they have options about what to do next  
  • Provide available support and reporting options, as this can help with their next steps 
  • Be clear regarding obligations of confidentiality and duty of care you may have 
  • Respect the affected person’s decision as to next steps 
Listening and Responding 
Give the person your full attention. Respond calmly, patiently and in a way that shows empathy. Don't question the person’s account and avoid asking direct questions about their experience, such as 'What happened next?' or questions that imply judgement such as 'Why did you go back to their room alone?' 
Appropriate questions include: 
  • How are you feeling? 
  • Would you like to talk to me or someone else about this? 
  • Do you need medical attention? 
  • Can I ask when this happened? 
  • Do you know the options available to you? 
  • Would you like to discuss these options with me or with someone else like a Student Life Adviser in Student Services? 
Reporting Options 
There can be a number of ways someone can make a report.
 If a crime has happened they can report it to the police. There might also be organisations that can help the person affected report to the police. For example if the person is a survivor of a sexual assault, they can report to the Harbour Centre, Norwich’s local SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre). 
If the person wants to report it to the University, you can refer them to submit a report on Report and Support. This does not start an official investigation, but does allow for support to be given to them. This is the recommended option, as it is not your role to continue to support the person who is disclosing to you. You should refer the case to the Student Life team in Student Services (or People and Culture for staff) or contact them for additional support with the disclosure. 
Support Options 
You can refer to the Available Support page on Report and Support to find appropriate local or national support depending on the type of disclosure. The best place to refer students is to the Student Life team in Student Services as they will be able to support the student in obtaining the appropriate support, as well as support them through any reporting options they may choose.  
Some dos and don’ts if you receive a disclosure

  • Make factual notes about what the person affected told you 
  • Record the options you discussed with the person 
  • Record the actions the person decides to take 
  • Record how the person said they were feeling and how it’s affecting them 
  • Store the notes in a safe place  
  • Write notes while the person  is disclosing  
  • Add your own thoughts of feelings about the person or the incident 
  • Share your notes with other colleagues who don’t need to be involved 
Know your role and practice self-care 
The most important thing you can do is listen to the person and take their disclosure seriously.  
If you are concerned for someone’s safety then you may help them to act, without forcing them to do so. Sometimes it may be enough to acknowledge that they have shared the experience with you. If you need additional support contact the Student Life team in Student Services if there are any concerns of safety.  
It can be difficult to hear experiences of harassment or sexual misconduct and it is important to acknowledge your feelings, practice self-care and seek support. You may have feelings about the incident, or opinions about what the person should do – these are important to acknowledge for your own self-care but not to share with the person who is telling you about what happened. Remember, you can still seek support following a disclosure without breaching obligations of confidence. 
Online Training 
The University offers an online training course called Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Violence available on Blackboard. The course is recommended for Academic Advisers, student facing positions, and student leaders. Staff can access it on Blackboard under ‘Support and Training for Staff’ and then ‘Show All’. If you are a student leader and would like to take the course, email Student.Life@uea.ac.uk.  

There are two ways you can tell us what happened