Give support

It takes courage to come forward and disclose (or tell someone about) sexualized violence. It is important that we receive disclosures in a survivor-centred and trauma-informed manner as this can have a major impact on how a survivor moves forward.

How to receive a disclosure

While it can be hard to know what to say and what to do when someone discloses, just remember that it takes COURAGE to disclose and therefore we owe it to survivors to respond appropriately.

courage-text only

C — Commence

by believing people; it is one of the most powerful things you can do to support a survivor. Tell people explicitly that you do believe them.

O — Offer

to get them support, and where possible connect them in with the sexualized violence resource office. In some cases, that might not be the best option for the survivor, so follow their lead. For example, reporting an incident to police might not be the best option for one person while it could be for another.

U — Understand

the importance of confidentiality, and in some cases, its limitations. (Policy GV0245)

R — Respect

a survivor’s choices and personal boundaries. The best way to empower someone after they’ve experienced a loss of power and control is to give them options and respect their choices. This includes respecting their personal boundaries, some of which might be different following an incident of sexualized violence.

A — Acknowledge

there is no typical or “right way” for a survivor to respond to sexualized violence. A range of biochemical, environmental and sociological factors shape our response.

G — Give validation

Make it clear that sexualized violence is never a survivors fault. People have been shamed and blamed for what has happened to them which has led many to never report, or seek out the support options they rightfully deserve.

E — Express empathy

This includes saying to someone, “I’m sorry this happened to you” or “what happened to you is not okay”.

Receiving a disclosure can be difficult

It is okay not to know what to say when someone discloses to you. The important things to remember are: be kind and empathetic, believe the person, and link them to support people who can help them. This could include connecting them with the sexualized violence resource office. If you need additional information on how to receive a disclosure, consider taking the Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response workshop offered through EQHR, or Support a Survivor, offered by the Anti-Violence Project.

Following a disclosure, you might also need support. It can be hard hearing about someone else’s painful or difficult experience. You might feel awkward or helpless and it may trigger a difficult experience from your own life. Feel free to reach out to the sexualized violence resource office or any of the other on- or off- campus supports if you feel impacted.

Sexualized violence resource office

Location: Sedgewick C119, Equity and Human Rights office

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