Support for family, friends and colleagues
If a friend, family member or colleague confides in you that they were sexually assaulted it is important to listen. It's important that they receive the message that you believe them and that the assault was not their fault. It might be helpful to say phrases like;
- I believe you
- Thank you for having the courage to tell me
- What happened to you is not your fault
Please encourage your friend, family member or colleague to review our Sexual Assault Support and Response Guides customized to each campus and institute. These guides provide critical information about the options available for seeking support. Make sure they know how to contact us and, if requested, you can connect with us for them. Advise your friend, family member or colleague of our ability to coordinate interim measures or accomodations as needed, as well as our ability to facilitate referrals to other supports both on campus and in the community. Assure them of our triple c's and make sure they know they can choose an informal or formal pathway toward a resolution, or if they would like to come to the office for support and advice without laying a complaint that is fine too.
There is no right or wrong way for your friend, family member or colleague to be reacting following a sexual assault so it's important to be aware of and acknowledge your own feelings and judgements. You may be feeling angry, disgusted, numb, guilty or fearful. You may be feeling frustrated that your friend or family member isn't responding in the way you think they should. Perhaps you think they need to pursue criminal charges or maybe you think they should visit the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner in order to have a forensic exam. We encourage you to keep these feelings and judgements in check and support your friend, family member or colleague no matter how they react. It is common to feel helpless at times. Sometimes listening is the most helpful thing you can do. Remember it is their right to control how they cope following an assault, and supporting them through the process no matter what decisions they make is one of the best ways you can help.
You might also consider seeking support for yourself. Hearing of someone else's traumatic experience can be very difficult and any feelings you experience are real and valid. Talking with a counsellor or therapist might be helpful, as well as participating in self care activities.
If you witness sexual harassment or sexual assult
- Intervene if safe to do so.
- Report the incident to the Sexual Harassment Office, remember the triple C's: Confidentiality, Control and Consent.
When you consult with the Sexual Harassment Office, your information is confidential unless there is a safety risk, you remain in control of the process, and nothing is shared without your consent.
Call CEP as needed (4100 from a campus phone or 864-4100) or 911.
Adapted from NLSAPC and Lakehead University.