Let’s talk about helping others
As a friend or active bystander, you might find yourself assisting a victim of sexual assault or harassment, whether immediately after an incident occurred or down the track when they disclose to you what they went through.
In the event of assault or rape, it’s important that you listen to them, let them know you believe them and understand what has happened and ask them how you might help. Remember that they are likely feeling vulnerable, having had their sense of control shaken, so it’s important to not rush them into making decisions or to tell them what to do.
Be gentle and let them know their options. These include:
- Asking whether they would like medical attention for both their wellbeing as well as collecting evidence if necessary.
- Asking whether they wish to notify the police. An informal report does not mean they have to press charges, and it could be helpful if there is future legal action If it happened on campus, asking them if you can call Security to ensure their immediate safety.
Your instinct might be to comfort the person with a hug, but only do so if you’re sure that they are comfortable with physical contact. The key is to let them lead the way and to work through this process at their own pace. Be an ear and an open heart.
Tips on how to help others
- Find somewhere safe and private, and sit alongside them
- Encourage them to take their time
- Take them seriously and give them your full attention
- Believe them
- Remain calm and neutral but still kind
- Remember that you don’t have to be an expert to listen and be kind
- Acknowledge how hard it must have been for them to talk about it, it takes a lot of courage to talk about these things
- Assist them in getting all the information they need in order to make the best decision for them
- Support them in accessing any medical or emotional support they need
- Minimise what they say, sometimes joking or making light of the situation can make it worse
- Force the person to seek help or do something they don’t want to
- Insist they report the incident
- Ask for details that are unnecessary or too much detail
- Tell them to forget about it and move on
- Blame them or yourself, the only person to blame is the perpetrator
- Ask questions like “why didn’t you fight them off?”, “were you drinking?”, “why didn’t you leave?”
- Make comments like “who were they, I’ll kill them”, these might seem supportive but may be upsetting.
When somebody is bullied, harassed, sexually harassed, sexually assaulted or raped, this can be traumatic and they may feel embarrassed and like it is their fault. These may be difficult experiences for people to recall so above all there are 3 things to remember if somebody discloses or confides in you.
- Tell them you believe them
- Reinforce that it was not their fault and they are not alone
- Ask what they want to do next – and respect their decision
Here are some resources and hotlines you should know about
- Sexual Assault Helpline 1800 010 120
- Queensland Health Sexual Assault Services: 1800 010 120
- 1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732
- Beyond Blue
- Lifeline – 131 114
Noticing a problem
Being a victim/survivor of sexual harassment, sexual assault or domestic violence can have significant impacts on a person's physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing. Noticing that a friend, colleague or somebody in your class may not be okay is the first step in offering them support. A few signs to look out for include:
- Bruises or injuries
- Flinching when someone touches or gets close
- Not making eye contact or socially isolating themselves
- Withdrawing and not participating in conversations
- Becoming upset during what could be triggering conversation topics (sex, abuse…)
- Not engaging or letting another speak for them
If you notice any of these signs, or if they are just not being their usual selves, check in with them. Here are some tips:
- Ask if they are alright
- invite them to have a coffee with you
- Say you have noticed they have been down/not around/not themselves lately
- Let them know that you are there for them if they ever need you
- Respect their privacy and decisions
- Approach their partner about them
- Push them to talk, let them come to you when they are ready.
- Make a big deal about it
- Confront them around others
- Be offended if they do not confide in you
- Place conditions on your support (“if you tell the police I’ll help”, “if you don’t leave your partner I can’t help”)
Offering that unconditional support can make a huge difference in a person’s life, whether they take you up on it or not. Sometimes just knowing somebody notices them and is there for them is all they need.
If you are or know of somebody being sexually harassed or assaulted or you are worried about somebody, there are supports available.
Immediate support in emergencies
Police - 000
QUT Security - 3138 8888
QUT support services
Equity Harassment and Discrimination Advisors - 3138 2019 - firstname.lastname@example.org
QUT free counselling service - 3138 2019 - email@example.com
Or make an appointment online
Use the online reporting form
Security can escort you around campus if you feel unsafe. Give them a call on 3138 5585 or download the SafeZone app.
Read more about:
Being an Active Bystander