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Give Support

If someone discloses sexual violence to you, it’s okay to not have all the answers. You don’t need to be an expert to support them.

Be Brave

What to Expect When Someone Discloses

Each survivor has their own personal experience, emotions, and ways of coping. This is shaped by age, gender, race, ability, class and other social locations.

When they disclose to you, they may:

  • Be incredibly sad and crying
  • Appear flat or calm
  • Exhibit memory loss
  • Demonstrate an inability to concentrate
  • Have a panic attack
  • Be unsure, questioning

Each is a normal reaction to a traumatic event. There is no right or wrong way to act when telling one’s story of sexual violence.

Steps to Take

If someone discloses to you that they have been subjected to sexual violence, believe them, listen to them and validate them. Then follow the steps below.

Ensure their safety

Make sure they are in a safe location away from the perpetrator if they assault just happened and have a safe place to stay. If they are in immediate danger, dial ‘80’ from an internal phone or call 416-979-5040 to reach Ryerson Security.

Provide them options for support

If they won’t be seeking medical or professional support, encourage them to tell a trusted friend or family member. They can access supportive counselling through the 24/7 phone lines of the Rape Crisis Centre of Toronto and the Assaulted Women’s Helpline.

You can also refer them to our office. Offer to come with them or to make an appointment on their behalf if they are uncomfortable doing this alone. They have access to our support regardless if the sexual violence happened on- or off-campus, or if they were subjected to sexual violence before they came to Ryerson.

Our office can help with:

  • Safety planning
  • Referrals to counselling and medical services
  • Self-care resources
  • Academic and workplace accommodations
  • Understanding the available reporting options
  • Navigating systems and resources within the university and the community

If they have just been assaulted and want to make a report with the police:

  • A medical examination should be completed ideally within 72 hours, although some portions of the exam may be considered for collection up to 7-12 days post-assault, depending upon the circumstances and type of assault. The survivor should try to refrain from changing their clothes or taking a shower to preserve the evidence.

  • In Toronto, evidence can be collected by a specially trained nurse through the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program. When you arrive at any hospital emergency department in Toronto, the staff will contact the SANE on duty through the Women’s College Hospital Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre and Scarborough General's Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre. Survivors can seek medical attention, even if they don’t plan to report the assault to the police.

  • If they would like to report to the police or campus security, provide them with the contact information and offer to assist them in making the call or being present with them when they do it.

If the assault happened on Ryerson’s campus, it should also be reported to Security and Emergency Services.

Practice self care

Know your own limits. Remember that is okay to say that you don’t have to know the answer to a question, and that is okay for you to have boundaries. If you need to debrief with a professional and you are a Ryerson student, contact the Centre for Student Development and Counselling (CSDC). If you are staff or faculty, contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Provide Accommodation

A survivor of sexual violence often experiences a range of physical and emotional reactions that can impact their ability to perform academically or at work. As professors and employers, it is our responsibility to accommodate their needs.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is essential in making someone feel safe to disclose sexual violence, and seek support and accommodation. The survivor has the right to choose when, how and to whom they disclose to. They should never be pressured to share with anyone unless they want to.