Sexual harm disclosure

Date Published: 
Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Cathy Stephenson discusses how to ask about non-consensual sex and what to do if you get a disclosure.



  • 00:01 Intro
  • 01:14 case study
  • 02:00 how do you ask about it?
  • 05:31 how common are spontaneous disclosures?
  • 07:49 routine inquiries
  • 10:55 NZ statistics
  • 11:58 risk factors
  • 13:50 consent
  • 15:57 consequences of sexual harm
  • 21:15 responding to a disclosure
  • 24:44 assessing immediate risks
  • 27:15 time frame for referral
  • 28:24 are referrals taken up
  • 31:10 in transit to sexual health team
  • 33:53 what happens next
  • 37:19 offering a safe follow up
  • 39:19 ACC and funding
  • 41:35 take-home messages.


Take-home messages

  • Sexual assault affects 1 in 4 women in NZ, the vast majority of whom will never tell anyone or seek help.
  • Younger women are more at risk, along with Māori, people from areas of higher deprivation, and members of the LGBQTI community.
  • Routinely enquiring about sexual harm increases the rate of disclosure.
  • Primary care teams are ideally placed to ask about sexual harm and should consider doing this routinely during appointments for contraception, smears, sexual health checks, and at other appropriate times
  • If you get a disclosure - don't panic! Be supportive, validating, non-judgmental, and know who to refer to.




Cathy Stephenson
General Practitioner & Senior Clinical Lecturer

Cathy is a GP at Mauri Ora Student Health Service, Victoria University of Wellington, and a busy mum of three teenage children. Passionate about empowering young people to be the best they can be, her special areas of interest include sexual health, sexual assault, contraception, mental health and well-being, gender-affirming healthcare, and improving health for vulnerable communities.

She is A Senior Clinical Lecturer at Otago University on Sexual Violence and Partner Violence, and for years worked for MEDSAC and as a forensic medical examiner at Wellington’s sexual assault service.
Cathy is a health columnist, writing weekly columns for Stuff until 2020, and now authoring a Youth Health column for New Zealand Doctor.

More recently Cathy taken on the role of  Clinical Lead Southern at the RNZCGP. Most of her learning around youth health and wellbeing has come from conversations around the family dinner table with the wonderful young people in her life!

Recognition of Learning Activities

Don't forget to log your time with The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners portal for recognition of learning activities.

RNZCGP website

This presentation is intended for qualified health practitioners professional development and should not be relied upon for any other purpose. Any opinions offered are those of the presenter or other speaker and do not necessarily represent the views of Goodfellow Unit.