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.
Steps to Take
If someone discloses to you that they have been subjected to sexual violence, you don’t need to be an expert offer them support. You just need to remember to Be B.R.A.V.E.
B. Begin by listening.
Don't pry or press for additional details. They should have control over their story and how they share it. Sexual violence is a violation of someone’s personal boundaries. Begin support by letting survivors decide what they will and will not share. Give them the space to share how they are feeling, try not to take up space with your reactions.
R. Respect confidentiality.
Ensure they will understand how and when you will share the information they have provided you. This lets survivors have control over what and how they share information with you. Not explaining limits of confidentiality, opens in new window sets the survivor up to have their story shared before they may have decided to do so.
A. Ask what support looks like to them.
Let go of assumptions. Reporting to the police is not every survivor's vision of justice. Support can range from helping someone report, to making someone tea. Do ask them about safety. Make sure they are in a safe location away from the person who caused harm if the assault just happened. Make sure they have safe place to stay. If they are in immediate danger and you are on campus, dail ‘80’ from any internal phone or call 416-979-5040. If you are not on campus, call 9-1-1.
V. Validate them.
Remind them it is not their fault and they are believed. The only person at fault in instances of sexual violence, is the person who caused harm. Survivors are not the blame regardless of what they were wearing, where they were, what they had to drink or who they were with.
Understand everyone has a different way of healing from violence. Empathize with the impact this is having on the person who disclosed to you. Empathize with yourself and your reactions to what you have heard. Hearing stories of sexual violence can have an impact on you as well. Make sure you get the care you need to be a good support.