Guidelines for staff- updated November 2022
This guidance sets out some key steps to take if you receive a disclosure of gender based violence from a student.
Make sure the student is safe
If the student is in physical danger or in need of immediate medical attention, call the emergency services on 999.
Make sure they know we support and believe them
At this initial and often traumatic stage, it is helpful to offer non-judgemental support and affirmation of the student’s experience. It is important that you don’t ask probing or detailed questions.
Examples of helpful questions you can ask are:
- Do you currently feel safe? If not, you can gently discuss what they are fearful of (the alleged assailant/being blamed or not believed/responses from family/friends etc.)
- What do you need to feel safe? Explore options around safe space/accommodation/counselling/making a report, etc.
- Are you receiving any support with this?
- Do you feel comfortable telling me when and where this happened (this will impact upon any safety and wellbeing plan)
- The University has a specialist team to support students affected by experiences such as the one you have shared. Would you find it helpful to chat with an experienced member of this team to receive some support and explore your options?
Try to help them feel safe
If the student or staff member has felt comfortable to make a disclosure of harm to you, it is likely that they view you as an approachable, safe person to talk to. Continue to make them feel safe by remaining calm, friendly, supportive and empathetic.
When supporting the student, it is important to use their language and descriptors rather than redefining their experience. The survivor may view their experience differently than you do, but it’s important that they remain in control of the narrative around their experience.
It’s natural that the student’s disclosure may evoke some difficult feelings for you, but it is important that staff members personal views regarding the disclosure do not impact the survivor’s decisions making; sharing personal views or experiences could be detrimental to the survivor. It’s additionally important to be aware of your facial expressions and non-verbal communication upon receiving a disclosure.
Understand why they might want to talk to the University
You can support the student to feel in control of their experience moving forward by identifying what the survivor would like from you, whether this is guidance on making a formal report; support accessing extensions and special circumstances; or providing the student with someone to talk to.
Offering information regarding the student’s next steps and highlighting the options available to them can be beneficial in supporting students to make informed decisions. If this is something you would like support with, you can speak with the Equally Safe Team (EST) to explore the students' options.
This can be done by referring the student, with the student’s consent, into the EST support service by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or contacting the EST in confidence to seek advice or consultation whilst keeping the student's identifiable details anonymous.
Disclosures of gender-based violence (GBV) and other forms of abuse are not straight forward. They can be unexpected and difficult to prepare for. If a student chooses to make a disclosure of GBV to you and you are not in a situation or environment where this disclosure can be heard and managed appropriately, reassure the student that what they are sharing with you is important and make arrangements with them to have this conversation in a more appropriate, private location; or at the first available opportunity if timing is a concern.
Remind the student that there is a specialist team working within the University that you can refer them into, with their permission, where they will be contacted by a member of the team within two working days to progress support.
Documenting a disclosure
It is good practice to refrain from taking notes whilst a student is disclosing their experience to you, but instead writing notes as soon as possible afterwards whilst the disclosure is fresh in your memory.
Notes of this nature should remain confidential and should only be shared on a need-to-know basis. They should be brief and factual and include dates, times and concerns. Any escalation or further actions should be documented.
Disclosures of gender-based violence are required to be reported anonymously by staff centrally to the University. They should be submitted via the Equally Safe Team email inbox including the following information where known:
- When & where the incident(s) took place
- The gender(s) of all parties and if they are students and/or staff members
- The nature of the incident (domestic abuse; sexual assault; stalking etc)
- If the reporting party has been signposted to support services