Disclosing sexual violence is always difficult and survivors experience many barriers when it comes to telling someone else about what happened.
A survivor may choose to confide in anyone about an act of sexual violence – a fellow student, professor, instructor, teaching assistant, department head, coach, or staff from housing, health, counselling, housekeeping or security. Everyone on campus should have access to basic information on how to provide a compassionate and reassuring response.
A supportive response involves:
- Listening without judgement.
- Communicating that sexual violence is never the responsibility of the survivor.
- Respecting the survivor’s right to choose the services they feel are most appropriate and to decide whether to report to police or security.
- Helping the survivor identify and/or access available on- or off-campus services, including emergency medical care.
- Respecting the survivor’s choices as to what and how much they disclose about their experience.
- Recognizing that disclosing can be traumatic and a survivor’s ability to recall the events may be limited.
- Making every effort to respect confidentiality and anonymity (from Developing a Response to Sexual Violence: A Resource Guide For Ontario’s Colleges and Universities).
Receiving a disclosure can, itself, be traumatic and supports are available at your institution to support you.
You should not go beyond your comfort level or expertise when responding to a disclosure (see common procedure) All College and University employees can:
- be supportive
- be non-judgmental about the survivor’s decisions and reactions
- refer (accompany) the survivor to the right person who can provide the help they need (the Sexual Assault Support/Advisor, Security, Counselling Services)
CLICK HERE to find your institution’s policy, procedure, and opportunities for debriefing and self-care after receiving a disclosure. You will also find information about services on your campus and in your community.