Supporting a Survivor

Help a survivor of sexual assault

You don’t need to be an expert or have all the answers to help a survivor of sexual assault or misconduct, and there are things everyone can do to help end the violence.

Members of the UBC Community who have received a disclosure of sexual assault or misconduct, witnessed sexual assault or misconduct, or are supporting someone who has experienced sexual assault or misconduct can also contact Peak Resilience for support.

If someone tells you that they’ve been sexually assaulted:

Maintain the survivor’s confidentiality

There are a lot of barriers to survivors disclosing sexual assault. It’s important that they get to choose who knows their story.

Provide support

  • Listen without interrupting and be patient
  • Understand that all individuals express or experience their reactions to an assault in different ways. Allow for tears and expression of feelings.
  • Validate the survivor’s experiences or reactions. Respect the language they use.
  • Believe and support the survivor.
  • Acknowledge courage and discomfort.
  • Remind the survivor they are not at fault.
  • Help the survivor identify safe individuals within their existing support system.
  • Encourage the survivor to seek the support they need and allow them to make their own decisions.
  • Ask what you can do to be supportive.

Refer the survivor to resources and support

A few examples of how to make a referral:

“I’m here to listen and support you. It could also be helpful for you to talk to someone who has specialized knowledge in this area.”

“There are places that you can go to get information or support confidentially.”

“Even if you don’t know what you want to do right now, it can be helpful to talk to someone about your options.”

“I would be happy to go with you to talk to someone.”

Be an active bystander against sexual assault

Everyone has a role to play in preventing sexual assault. An active bystander is someone who observes unacceptable behavior targeted towards someone else and takes action. Learn more about becoming an active bystander.

Assess the situation

The first step to being an active bystander is assessing the situation when you notice unacceptable behaviour:

  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Decide ‘in your gut’ if what you witness is unacceptable, and ask yourself if you can play a role.
  • Assess the options and risks for taking action, and decide whether to act now or later.
  • If you or others are in immediate danger or fear for your safety, you can call 911

Intervene

  • After assessing the situation, decide if and how you might intervene:
  • Interrupt the behaviour.
  • Use “I” statements: “I feel _____ when you ____. Please don’t do that anymore.”
  • Use humour when appropriate (e.g., “Ouch!”), or use body language or silence to show disapproval.
  • Change perspective: “What if someone just said that about someone you care about?”