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Know what to do when someone discloses

2 minutes

With one in 6 women experiencing violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, there is a likelihood that someone you know will have had, or knows someone who has had, an experience of violenceYou may also know or interact with a perpetrator of violence against women. 

Many people will hide their experiences because it is too upsetting, or for fear of losing their job or facing rejection from their friends and family. 

How you respond to the disclosure has a great impact on the person’s wellbeing and safety.  

What should you do?

Recognise the signs that a person might be experiencing violence. Take all reports of discrimination, harassment or violence seriously. 

Respond appropriately to a disclosure of violence by believing the person: 

  • Make sure they understand it’s not their fault.
  • Be patient and listen to their story.
  • Find a private space to talk freely.
  • Don’t ask too many questions about what has happened as this can be re-traumatising.
  • Don’t push them to leave their situation or take actions.
  • Make sure they know the perpetrator is responsible for the abusive behaviour.
  • Respect their right to have control over what they say and the actions they take. 

Refer them to specialist support. You may offer to go with them to any appointments to make sure they are safe. Some options for support include: 

  • 1800RESPECT or local support service
  • the Employee Assistance Program to provide counselling and support  
  • human resources, if the disclosure happens in a work context 
  • a general practitioner or other health professional. 

What if someone discloses that they use violence?

If someone discloses to you that they use violence, refer them to appropriately trained support services or programs: 

The Men’s Referral Service (1300 766 491) can support men who are seeking counselling, information or support for domestic and family violence. 

Relationships Australia offers counselling to both men who perpetrate domestic and family violence and women and children who are victims and/or survivors of domestic and family violence. 

You may be required by law to report disclosures of violence when children are involved. Check with your State or Territory police for more information on your obligations. 

Resources and training on how to respond