Education and training are important components for dispelling myths we have been taught to believe about sexual violence. Through educational initiatives, the University hopes to foster a culture where consent is mandatory, survivors are believed and support resources are widely available. We all have a role to play in working to educate against sexual violence in our communities. We encourage our community members to reach out to us to request training and to keep a look out on our website for upcoming initiatives and opportunities to get involved.
Taking an Intersectional Approach
While anyone of any gender can experience sexual violence, there are marginalized groups that are at higher risk of experiencing sexual violence. When we aim to use an intersectional approach in addressing sexual violence, it is important that we recognize and keep in mind that there are various aspects towards an individual’s identities, and how one may seek support may be shaped by their experiences. This is why it is important to always ask someone what they need, rather than assuming based on assumptions or your own experiences. We should always recognize our individual position and how it can affect our capacity to respond as active bystanders.
If You Receive a Disclosure of Sexual Violence
Follow these steps:
- Assess Immediate Safety
- Inform Survivor of Limitations to Confidentiality
- Listen Without Judgment
- Refer the Individual to the Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education
Assess Immediate Safety
If possible, ensure that the disclosure takes place somewhere the survivor feels comfortable and where their privacy is heeded. Ask the survivor if their immediate safety is at risk.
- If the immediate safety of the survivor or any other member of the community is at risk, contact Security Services at 416-736-5333 or Ext. 33333 and/or 911.
- If immediate safety is not at risk, ask the individual if they are somewhere they feel comfortable.
Please Note: Security Services will only contact Police Services with the consent of the survivor unless it is assessed that there is an imminent risk to the safety of an individual or the broader community.
Inform the Survivor of Limitations to Confidentiality
It is your responsibility to inform the person making the disclosure of any limits to confidentiality before they disclose identifying information. If you are unsure of any limitations to confidentiality, offer to refer the individual to the Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education (301 York Lanes, 416-736-5211, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Listen Without Judgment
A supportive and validating initial response to disclosures of sexual violence often makes a significant difference for survivors who may be apprehensive about sharing deeply personal or difficult information. Here are some ways to communicate support and concern:
- Let the survivor maintain as much control over the pace of the disclosure as possible. Allow them to finish without interrupting and offer breaks when needed.
- Listen carefully to what the survivor says and acknowledge the courage it took for them to come forward and share their experience.
- Do not make dismissive or victim blaming comments. Questioning the survivor's behaviour or experience may result in the survivor feeling judged, disbelieved, blamed or a range of other negative emotions.
- Refrain from asking the survivor specific details about the incident. Intrusive questioning about the incident may cause the survivor to feel that they are being interrogated and that you are not listening to what they are sharing with you.
- Avoid initiating physical contact with the survivor without their consent. Some survivors may feel uncomfortable with physical contact following sexual violence.
- Create time and space for the individual to determine what decisions best suit their particular circumstances. Do not pressure them to make a decision or impose any decision on them.
Refer the Individual to the Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education
An important part of supporting a person who has experienced sexual violence is to provide them with information about their options and the resources that are available to them. Navigating university and community resources after experiencing sexual violence can be difficult. Your role is to assist the survivor in connecting with the appropriate office.
Recommend that the survivor contact the Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education (301 York Lanes, 416-736-5211, email@example.com). If the survivor would like to call the Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education or a community agency, offer to sit with them as they place the call. If appropriate and feasible, offer to accompany the survivor to the the Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education or community resources of their choice.
Respect the survivor's choice of whether to report the incident(s) to Security Services or to Police Services. Do not report the incident(s) yourself. Do not pressure the survivor to seek further assistance if they decline to do so.
Education & Training Initiatives
Active Bystander Program
Our Active Bystander program aims to educate our community members to intervene when witnessing any form of sexual violence. Through training programs and initiatives, we hope to create a community that is educated on what sexual violence is, how consent can be incorporated in our daily lives and empower individuals to say something, or do something when witnessing different forms of sexual violence.
Sexual violence may appear in the media often, however incidences of sexual violence are highly under reported. There are numerous barriers that exist that make it difficult for survivors to openly seek support or report their experiences with sexual violence.
Some barriers include:
- Fear of not being believed.
- Shame, embarrassment, guilt and self‐blame experienced by the survivors.
- Fear of retaliation by the perpetrator.
- Concerns about re‐victimization by the system.
- Someone who is from the LGBTQ* community and not "out" may not want to disclose out of fear of the implications of the disclosure.
- Someone with a disability may be reliant on a support person for care and may be in fear of the outcomes of disclosure.
- Someone from a targeted community may not see the police as there to protect them.
As an active bystander, you can help decrease these barriers for survivors to report an incident or reach out for support by contributing to a culture that takes the issue seriously and aims to prevent additional violence from occurring. It is also important to always check in with the person experiencing the violence or discrimination to ensure you are not taking power away from them in the situation. For example, some survivors may not feel comfortable contacting the police, so it is important that you respect their wishes, and provide them with other avenues of support.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for training opportunities.
There is No Maybe
There is No Maybe is a theatrical play performed by members of Vanier College Productions that focuses on sexual violence, consent, how to be an active bystander and support services available. The play has been performed at Orientation Day to over 6000+ incoming students and orientation leaders for the past two years.
Produced by the Sexual Violence Response Office, York University
Conceived by Vanier College Productions
Created by Kristen Da Silva, Katie Edwards, Alisse Lee Goldenberg, Brian Goldenberg, Theresa Noon-Hunter
Directed by Kristen Pepper; Stage Managed by Beth Ransom
Featuring: Trimaine Blake, Zaarin Bushra, Beatrice Campbell, Linda Ge, Stefan Porfirio, Danny Sylvan