Supportive Workplace: A Trauma-Informed and Victim-Centred Approach

A workplace system and environment which offers appropriate, timely and adequate support to victims of sexual harassment and bystanders is typically characterized as being

  • (a)trauma-informed and
  • (b) victim centred.

    A trauma-informed organisation is one that functions on the premise of understanding trauma and its effects on victims as well as employees generally. As an essential element of fulfilling obligations under the positive duty, the organisation must strive to prevent unlawful behaviour. However, when such behaviour does occur, steps should be taken immediately and transparently to limit and mitigate the harmful effects.

    A victim-centred approach places the rights, perspectives, well-being and overall needs of the victim at the heart of any policy and any response to sexual harassment. Creating a safe environment where victims and colleagues feel secure to speak up without any fears of being dismissed or retaliated against.

    When individuals suffer a trauma or find themselves in a crisis situation they will often look to institutions or their employers to support and protect them. Employers must hold this concept front of mind when reports of sexual harassment arise. I Failing to offer timely and appropriate support not only perpetuates harm to the victim but also contributes to what psychologists’ term “institutional betrayal.

    Employees who are victims of sexual harassment are often singled out and targeted by perpetrators who occupy positions of superior power in the organization. Victims usually lack the power to resist and often are reluctant to report the incident for fear of adverse consequences. It is therefore up to leaders and managers to step in when incidents are made known and provide support whether or not it has been explicitly requested.

    This kind of action is vital not only for the victim but for the rest of the employees who will note the seriousness with which this type of challenge is being addressed.



    Practical guidelines

    to equip leaders and organisations with the tools they need to meet the positive duty:


    Comprehensive Onboarding Package

    Provide a detailed information sheet during onboarding, outlining available support resources and reporting mechanisms.


    Visible Awareness Campaigns

    Display posters, flyers, and informational materials prominently across the workplace, ensuring heightened awareness of available support.


    Interactive Online Resources

    Develop an engaging online module with relevant links, granting permission for employees to share vital information on personal accounts.



    Accessible Intranet Support Hub

    Maintain a dedicated section on the intranet, offering comprehensive information on where to seek support, policies, and reporting procedures.


    Speak-Up Programs

    Implement anonymous reporting mechanisms and encourage a culture where employees feel comfortable speaking up about harassment without fear of retaliation.


    Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

    Establish and promote EAPs to provide confidential counselling and support services for employees affected by sexual harassment.


    By following these practical recommendations, your organisation can cultivate a more respectful and inclusive work environment while effectively addressing issues related to sexual harassment.