Introduction to responding

  • How you respond to someone who has been impacted by violence can make a big difference to their recovery
  • If you have not had training in this area or do not feel confident the best thing you can do is respond sensitively and refer the person on to a specialist service
  • The are a range of providers who offer training in how to respond to sexual, domestic and family violence

Responding to violence and abuse

It takes a lot of courage to disclose an experience of sexual assault, domestic or family violence. Responding sensitively can make a real difference to someone's wellbeing and how they approach their situation. 

Even if you do not deal with domestic and family violence very often, it is important to respond in ways that support the needs of the person impacted. 

Two key principles are:

Thinking of safety first. Consider: Is what I am doing making it safer for the person experiencing sexual, domestic or family violence?

Holding perpetrators responsible. Consider: Is what I’m doing sending a clear message that the perpetrator is responsible and accountable for their violence, not the person who experiences it?

How to respond sensitively and safely

Make sure you are working at the level you have been trained and feel comfortable with. If you have not had training in this area, or do not feel you have had enough training, the best thing to do is to respond sensitively and refer the person on to specialist services. You can do this by:

  • Find out more about how to support an adult or child who has experienced sexual, domestic and family violence
  • Taking time, listening to their story and validating them
  • Making sure they have the privacy to be able to tell their story. If possible take them to a quiet room, where they will be able to talk more freely.
  • Not asking too many questions about what has happened — this can be intrusive and re-traumatising
  • Not arguing with them or pushing them to leave their situation or take action
  • Respecting their right to have control over what they say and the actions they want to take
  • Asking about what support they have to help them at the moment and encouraging them to seek further support
  • Referring them on to specialist support, such as 1800RESPECT or a local support service

Training to help you respond

Helping people to process and recover from the trauma arising from sexual, domestic and family violence is specialist work. However, all workers can learn how to respond in a trauma-informed way.

The best way to make sure you are responding well to disclosures of violence is to get training. The type of training that is right for you will depend on your role and professional background.

1800RESPECT does not provide training. Our training and professional development page has more information about the different types of roles and training available. You can also search the Service Directory for organisations in your area that provide training.


DV-alert is a program that provides free nationally recognised training that can help you:

  • Recognise the signs of domestic and family violence
  • Respond with appropriate care
  • Refer effectively to support services

If you are a community frontline worker there is no training fee, with the program fully funded by the Department of Social Services. Participants who complete the nationally accredited face-to-face workshops may also be supported to help cover costs for travel, accommodation and staff backfill.

Benefits of training

There are a range of professional and personal benefits to getting training. Depending on the type of training, benefits might include:

  • Understanding how domestic and family violence affects people around you
  • Tools for support to take home
  • Points for professional development
  • Opportunities to network with other frontline workers in the community
  • Better referral service through increased knowledge of local resources and support
  • Membership in the DV-alert online community which provides tools and resources on domestic and family violence support and referral

See the DV-alert website for more information on the workshops and training that they offer.