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If someone you know shares that they’ve experienced sexual violence, this means that they trust you.
It likely took a lot of courage for them to share this with you, and they may be looking for your support. In situations like this, one of the best things you can do is just listen. If you are at a loss for words, here are some things you could do next…
Start with letting the person know you believe them.
Avoid asking questions or making statements that could imply you don’t believe them. You could say something like: “I believe you” or “Thank you for telling me that” or “I’m glad you felt like you could share this with me.”
Let them know this was not their fault.
It is never someone’s responsibility to defend themselves from sexual violence. This is something that was done to them, not something they agreed to participate in. You could say something like: “This was not your fault,” or “It wasn’t your responsibility to stop them,” or “The other person made this choice, not you.”
Seek out supports.
If this person shared their experience with you, they might be looking to you to be one of their supports. This may mean listening to them when they need to talk about it, or it could mean helping distract them on hard days. There is no right way to support someone, so be sure to check in with this person to see what they need in different moments.
If this person is looking for local resources, you could support them by helping them find the resources that feel right for them, being present when they make the phone call, or by attending appointments with them if that is how they want to be supported. Most major urban centres have a sexual assault centre or crisis line.
Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse (CCASA) offers information and resources available in the Calgary area along with emotional supports. CCASA recognizes that sexual violence can also have an impact on support people, know that there are resources available to support you through this process as well. Contact CCASA at 403-237-5888.