How can I support someone who has been assaulted?
How to support someone:
Believe them: Research shows that if the first few respondents to the survivor believe them and support them, survivors have more confidence to go through with making a report and seeking appropriate couselling services.
Ask if they need medical help: Ask them if they need medical help and if they do, take them to the nearest hospital that has a sexual assault nurse present. Do not insist that they go to the hospital if they don't want to.
Follow their lead: When a person is assaulted they can feel a loss of control over their life and their body. If you push them to tell you more than they want to, to report the assault or to submit to a medical exam, you can re-traumatize them.
Stay away from WHY. Questions like "Why didn't you" or "Why did you" inadvertently judge the survivor. Recognize that everyone deals with their own personal situation differently.
Know your campus and community resources. Take time to learn where to easily access services in your new city.
Listen: Listen without judgment and without offering unsolicited advice. Offer support and let the person know that you are there for them. Allow them to talk through their feelings -- it's one of the best ways to support someone who has been assaulted.
Why would someone not want to report a sexual assault?
If it hasn't happened to you it might be hard to understand why someone wouldn't want to report a sexual assault. I mean, don't they want that person to be punished?
There's actually a lot of good reasons why a survivor might not want to report or even disclose an assault:
- Confusion about what happened, potentially due to haziness if alcohol or drugs were involved. Also, many people who experience trauma have trouble with some details or block out memories.
- Feelings of shame or embarassment about what happened
- Conflicting feelings about the perpetrator often due to a relationship/friendship with the person
- Concerns about personal safety after reporting the assault
- Fear of being blamed and/or not believed
- A desire or pressure to "move on" or "not dwell on it"
- Men are expected to be tough, fighters, strong enough...
- Stigma: Will people say I'm gay or will people blame my sexuality for being assaulted?
What are disclosing and reporting?
Disclosure: Telling someone about what happened
Reporting: Making an official report to the authorities
Options for reporting:
- Campus Security
- Campus counselling centre
- Campus medical clinic
- Victim services
- Victim Link
- RCMP / Local police
- Local hospital
*OR see our searchable resource list
What is third party reporting?
An adult can make an anonymous report to the RCMP with the help of Community Based Victim Assistance (There is one in every community, your counsellor or campus resource person can direct you to one).
Third-party reporting is when someone else reports the crime to the police. It ensures crimes get reported to police in circumstances where the victim may not want to be named.
How Third Party Reporting works
First, you tell a community-based victim service program the details of the crime. The program is the third party. They work with police without giving them your personal information. Once the third party files the report on your behalf, police evaluate the facts, start an investigation and take other actions that are appropriate, such as patrolling the area where the crime occurred.
This way of reporting protects your identity and also allows police to get information they need. For example, if police learn additional details about the crime through their investigation, the third party can act as a go-between for police to get information from you. It is your decision whether or not to work directly with police.
Only victim service workers in community-based victim service programs can file third-party reports. If you are considering using third party reporting, make sure you select a community-based victim service program and NOT a police-based victim service program (which do not allow third party reporting). To find a community-based victim service program in your area, contact Victim Link BC.