How to Respond to a Disclosure if you are a Member of the University Community
A Nipissing University Community member may disclose an experience of sexual violence to you, regardless of your role, or position in the University. The following information provides some general dos and don’ts to assist you if someone discloses their experience of sexual violence to you:
- Listen to the individual with respect and understanding
- Believe what they are telling you as true
- Communicate that sexual violence is never the responsibility of the survivor
- Recognize that what the individual is experiencing can be traumatic, and they may have difficulty recalling all information from the event
- Respect how much they choose to disclose, and whatever they choose as right for them, which may or may not be to receive support, or report to police
- Provide immediate assistance in the case of a medical emergency or current threat; this may be contacting Campus Security Services or the Police
- Share information about and refer to Counselling Services and other services available on- and off-campus
- Provide accommodations to the needs of the individual in your courses and/or services
- Ensure confidentiality with the individual if there is no current risk of harm to self or others. Do not promise to keep things private if there is any perceived serious risk to the individual or to others, including thoughts or plans of suicide, or if you have reason to believe there is a serious risk to other individuals on campus
- Judge the individual; believe what they are saying to you and take the disclosure seriously
- Ask questions about details of the sexual violence, the survivor’s sexual history, or for any other details that assume the individual might have been responsible/assume that the accused “misunderstood” the survivor
- Try to identify an alleged perpetrator
- Provide therapy to the individual (unless you are licensed to provide this, and it is your role on campus)
- Impose sanctions if anyone has been identified to you as a perpetrator (unless this is your role on campus)
- Talk to others about the individual or the sexual violence disclosure, excluding what is required to ensure the safety of the individual when there is a threat of harm to self or others
- Try to change the decision of the survivor with regard to reporting options, or impose your opinions of what they should do
How to Support a Friend or Family Member
1. Listen – Allow the person time to share with you what information they feel comfortable sharing. Be supportive and listen non-judgmentally. They may not act or feel like themselves. They may be experiencing a range of emotions, such as confusion, guilt, anxiety, or sadness. Try to remember that any response they have is okay, as everyone responds to trauma differently. Don’t try to give advice; just listen and empathize that what they have experienced is very painful.
2. Don’t pry for information – They may not be comfortable sharing all of the details with you. Don’t ask for more details about the sexual violence unless it is directly related to safety, or if there is any perceived current or future threat of harm.
3. Encourage them to seek help – Reassure them that they can inform University Security, the local police and/or to seek medical attention, if they haven’t already. For more information on this, please click here to see the section "I've Experienced Sexual Violence." Offer to support them in contacting a Counsellor or Crisis Line if you feel they need to talk to a professional.
4. Be patient – It might take some time to get back to “normal.” This can be a stressful time for people supporting an individual who has been sexually assaulted, too. Take care of yourself. Click here for a list of community services should you also want to seek out support for yourself.
Supporting Students in Distress
Government of Ontario Action Plan: #WhoWillYouHelp
The Ontario Government has made sexual violence prevention a priority by focusing on the root causes of sexual violence; gender inequality, and unhealthy attitudes and behaviours. #WhoWillYouHelp is their campaign focused on bystanders taking action to support the survivor. Use #WhoWillYouHelp to join the conversation.
Visit the #WhoWillYouHelp website: http://www.ontario.ca/home-and-community/we-can-all-help-stop-sexual-violence