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A person may want to talk to someone about their experience of sexual violence. This is called a disclosure and a disclosure is not a formal report of sexual violence. A person will often tell someone they know and trust, such as a friend, family member, counsellor, or a teacher.

If someone discloses to you that they have been impacted by sexual violence, it is okay to not have all the answers. You do not need to be an expert to be able to support them.

If you have received a disclosure of sexual violence, support is available through the Sexual and Gender-based Violence Response Advisor.

The Advisor can:

  • Offer consultation and coach you through ways to respond and provide support
  • Inform you about available resource you can provide the person disclosing.

Phone: (587) 390-6279 Email: svra@bowvalleycollege.ca

Responding to a Disclosure

Here are some helpful points for providing a supportive response to a disclosure of sexual violence:

  • Listen without judgment. Allow the person to talk about their experience in their own way and at their own pace (i.e. be patient)
  • Mirror their language and use the terms they are using (e.g. survivor/victim, sexual assault/rape)
  • Do not press for details, you do not need to know exactly what happened to support them.
  • Believe those who are disclosing sexual violence. Many of those impacted by sexual
  • violence will blame themselves or fear they will not be believed.
  • Validate how they are feeling and let them know it is not their fault.

Here are some example statements:

  • “I believe you.”
  • “It is not your fault.”
  • “Thank you for sharing this with me.”
  • Ask them how you can support them.
  • Respect privacy and explain the limits of confidentiality. If you need to share information, ensure they understand how and when you will do so.
  • Explore current supports they might have.
  • Inform them about and help them connect to available resources that they can choose to access.
  • Allow each person disclosing the ability to make their own choices about next steps, such if or when they connect to supports.
  • Ask if they would like you to follow-up with them and check-in.

Receiving a disclosure and providing support is an important role that could bring up a variety of emotions. This is normal and your feelings are valid. As a support person it is important to take care of yourself in order to help and support others.

It is important to be realistic about your ability to support others. If you do not think you are able to support the person disclosing at this time, help them find someone who can support them.

You can also access supports for yourself if needed.

If you would like to learn more about responding to disclosures of sexual violence, take our online trainings. For more information, click on events & training

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