1. Believe them
You don’t need to prove that the sexual assault happened. Avoid comments that call into question their experience and their integrity.
2. Listen without judging
Rely on your listening skills and avoid leading questions.
3. Respect their pace, their experience and their words
Respect what they have gone through, let them speak using their own words and reveal what they can at their own pace. Do not ask questions about the assault; focus on the victim not the specifics of the event.
4. Hear them without dramatizing or minimizing
Not all victims of assault react the same way but a sexual assault always involves an attack on one’s privacy and mental well-being. It is important not to minimize or dramatize the events or to make comparisons.
5. Maintain confidentiality
Let them know that they can confide in you and that you will respect their confidentiality, unless the assaults continue or their safety is at risk.
6. Avoid expressing strong reactions
Avoid expressing emotions that you may feel when hearing about the sexual assault such as outrage or anger. This may lead victims to stop sharing or make them feel abnormal about not feeling anger.
7. Validate their emotions and feelings
Let them cry, yell, laugh or use any other way they choose to express their feelings, including anger and shame. Connect with them emotionally, focus on their feelings, not on the facts.
8. Counter feelings of guilt because it is never the victim’s fault
Put responsibility on the person who assaulted. Be careful that your comments do not sound like accusations. This may sound like you are blaming the victim you are trying to help, which could compromise their recovery.
9. Ensure their safety
Check whether they are in danger, if they are having suicidal thoughts or if they need professional help.
10. Offer support and be there for them
Make sure they know that you are there for them while respecting your boundaries. Check if they have access to a support network (friends and family).
11. Help them identify their needs and encourage autonomy
Let them make their own choices and empower themselves. Encourage them and focus on their strengths.
12. Refer them to resources
Encourage them to seek support. Giving referrals and information is a great way to help. If you can, offer concrete assistance such as accompanying them for medical or any other appointments. To find a resource:
Ø Free help and referral line 24/7 - Montréal : (514) 933-9007 or : 1-888-933-9007
Ø Resources at Quebec.ca
The Regroupement québécois des Centres d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (RQCALACS) and its members will mark the 38th Day of Action on Sexual Violence against Women this Friday, September 20th, by launching a new tool to raise awareness about factors placing women in contexts of vulnerability to sexual violence.
The Quebec Coalition of Sexual Assault Centers (RQCALACS) and its members highlight, on Friday September 21st 2018, the 37th day of action on sexual violence against women by launching a new campaign: Ça me regarde!
“Brave any way... our way!” 39th Day of Action on Sexual Violence against Women