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Someone who has experienced sexual violence may disclose their experience to any member of the campus community. Often they will choose to disclose to someone they trust. The response of the person they first disclose to can have a profound impact on the survivors decision to continue to seek support or not.
If someone has disclosed to you that they have experienced sexual violence, you may feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed. That is completely normal. You want to support them and help them through this difficult experience, but you may not know how, and that is okay.
This section will help you understand how to provide a supportive response and access available support options that they may choose to access.
A DISCLOSURE IS NOT A FORMAL REPORT
A formal report can only be made to the Sexual Violence Support & Prevention Office (SVSPO). A formal report is made for the purposes of initiating a process under policy GP 44 Sexual Violence and Misconduct. The Sexual Violence Support & Prevention Office can receive both disclosures for the purpose of accessing support, and formal reports.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Be patient, let them take their time to tell you what happened.
- Mirror their language by using terms they use.
- Don't press for unnecessary information, for example don't ask if they were drinking or what they were wearing.
- Many Survivors blame themselves or fear they will not be believed.
- Validate their feelings and let them know that it is not their fault, for example:
- "It's not your fault."
- "Thank you for sharing this with me."
- "I believe you."
- Ask them what they need.
- Connect them with the support resources of their choice
- You may encourage them to seek support but don't insist.
- Empower the Survivor to choose what happens next, on their own terms.
- If you are able, continue to check in with them to see how they are doing.
- Being a support person is an important role that may bring up a variety of emotions. Your feelings are valid. If you have survived sexual violence yourself, the disclosure may bring back memories. It is important to acknowledge and tend to your own needs.
- It is also important to be realistic about your capacity. If you do not think you are able to support the survivor at this time, you can help them find others who are.
- Seek relevant support for yourself.
- You are strongly encouraged to connect with the SVSPO after you receive a disclosure. They can provide you with advice, resources and additional support. Click here to see what coordinated sexual violence supports are available at SFU.
- The SVSPO will respect the Survivor's confidentiality as per GP 44: Sexual Violence and Misconduct Prevention, Education, and Support.