Sexual assaults

Helpful attitudes

For people who have been sexually assaulted, it can be challenging to talk about it. They may wonder: “Are people going to believe my story? Who should I talk to about this? What will happen if I speak up?” 

Several reasons contribute to the silence of victims and survivors: myths and prejudices, fear of reprisals, isolation, having confused feelings towards the aggressor, fear of legal proceedings, fear of disrupting the lives of loved ones and the impression of being responsible for the event.

Helping someone who has been sexually assaulted is not easy. When we receive this kind of confidence, we must be on the lookout for our reactions and those of the person who opens up to us before passing judgment or taking action.

Helpful attitudes

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1. Believe
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1. Believe

Avoid comments questioning the word of the person speaking. They don’t have to prove anything.

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2. Listen without judgement
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2. Listen without judgement

Practice active listening, with a non-verbal attitude of openness. Do not interrupt their speech; pauses and silences are conducive to confidence. Make sure to avoid guided questions.

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3. Respect their story
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3. Respect their story

Let the person speak to you in their own words, at their own pace, and reveal what they can share.

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4. Listen without amplifying or minimizing
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4. Listen without amplifying or minimizing

Victims and survivors all react differently. Do not seek to assess the severity of the attack or to compare what they are going through.

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5. Ensure confidentiality
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5. Ensure confidentiality

Let the person know they can count on your discretion, unless the assaults persist or their safety is compromised.

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6. Avoid strong reactions
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6. Avoid strong reactions

Try to control your emotions and not overreact. Remember that the other person needs support and attention right now, not you!

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7. Validate their emotions and feelings
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7. Validate their emotions and feelings

Let the person cry, scream, laugh. Encourage the expression of what the person feels. Focus your attention on the person’s emotions and not on the analysis of the facts reported.

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8. Reassure them it’s not their fault
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8. Reassure them it’s not their fault

Steer the blame away and put it on the assailant: they are the sole person responsible for their actions.

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9. Ensure their safety
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9. Ensure their safety

Check if the person is in danger, if they have suicidal thoughts and if they need professional help.

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10. Offer your support
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10. Offer your support

Let the person know you are available, whether to talk about it or to accompany them in their steps, respecting your limits. Check if the person has a support network to rely on.

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11. Promote their autonomy
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11. Promote their autonomy

Encourage the person to identify their needs and find ways to meet them. Letting the person make their own choices is helping them regain power over their life.

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12. Guide them toward resources
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12. Guide them toward resources

Encourage the person to seek support: referring is helping. The CALACS (Sexual Assault Help Centers) are resources specializing in sexual assault : they are present in almost all regions of Quebec. Offer tangible help if you can.

Encourage the person to seek support: referring is helping. Offer tangible help if you can.
Find a CALACS

To find a center near you, browse through the list of resources like CALACS (Sexual Assault Help Centers) or use our service locator.  

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