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How to help someone who is at risk or has been sexually assaulted

What to do if someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted

It can be difficult for a person to tell someone they were sexually assaulted. Often, the survivor’s character and judgment are the first things to be questioned, even by friends and family members. Do your best to be supportive and nonjudgmental.

Believe them.

People rarely lie about a sexual assault. Whatever the circumstances, no one asks to be assaulted. Tell them that it is not their fault.

Be supportive and nonjudgmental.

Don’t question them, blame them, ask why the assault happened, or assume that ignoring it will make it go away. Sexual assault is a crime and the only person responsible is the assailant.

Don’t pressure them.

Don't pressure them into making decisions or doing things they may not be ready to do. Respect whatever choices they make. We don’t want to take away their sense of control.

Encourage them to call 911 or contact a local distress line such as the Assaulted Women’s Helpline (154 languages): 1-866-863-0511/ Mobile #7233, especially if the assault was recent.

Encourage them to get medical help.

Encourage them to seek medical attention immediately, even if they don't want to report to law enforcement. Specialized support and services are available.

Explain available resources and allow them to choose what to do.

They may or may not want to file a police report, tell their friends or family, go to Student Rights and Responsibilities or the Centre for Equity and Inclusion etc. Assure them that someone is always available to explain options, provide resources, and make referrals.

Respect confidentiality.

Let them decide who and how much they will tell about the assault.

Duty to report.

Faculty, staff, other employees and contractors have a duty to immediately report all incident and suspected incidents of sexual violence, especially if that incident or suspected incident was committed by a member of the Sheridan community. Please call the Centre for Equity and Inclusion at ext. 2915 or 2229, or contact Campus Security at ext. 4044.

If you are a student and have witnessed sexual violence, please call The Student Rights and Responsibilities Office at extension 2306 or 2813 for Trafalgar and STC Campuses, extension 5073 or 5336 for Davis and HMC Campuses. If you want to speak to someone directly, please go to The Student Services Centre: B104 at Trafalgar Campus, B230 at Davis Campus, and A247 at the HMC Campus.

Don’t expect your them to get over it.

Sexual assault and sexual violence can affect every major aspect of a person’s life. It is not something people just get over. They may learn to adapt or adjust to a new normal, but the assault will always be a part of their lives.

Remember that recovery is a process, not an event.

Allow your friend as much time as they need to heal.

Encourage them to consider counselling.

Talking with an impartial professional may help them and teach them some new coping skills and strategies to start healing.

Credit: Adapted from UCF Victim Services