We believe you.

Giving Support

Survivors often first confide in people who are in a position of trust, such as a close friend or mentor. Our Sexualized Violence Response and Education Coordinator (SVREC) provides support for all members of the Acadia community who have been affected by sexualized violence. The SVREC can provide training and guidance for those interested in supporting survivors of sexualized violence.

When a survivor shares their story with you, it can be emotionally difficult and sometimes overwhelming, particularly if you have experienced past trauma yourself. If a survivor has confided in you and you are uncertain how to best support them, you are welcome to reach out. You can talk to the SVREC about how to care for your own needs while also ensuring that the survivor gets the care and support that they deserve.

You can explore the information below or read our guide We Believe You: A guide to responding to sexual violence disclosures with knowledge and compassion (PDF). This guide is for staff, faculty, students, and any member of our Acadia community. It will help you understand how to respond to disclosures with care and insight and how to direct survivors to resources where they can get support.

Ways to Intervene

When you’re not sure if something is wrong:

What if you're with a friend or in a public situation and you're not sure if someone is being abused? Gather information by asking questions. Check in and follow up with the potential victim. For example, if you see someone being treated in a way that makes you suspicious at a party, check in with that person later in the evening and make sure they're doing OK.

When you know something problematic is happening or could happen soon:

  • Cause a distraction

    Can you draw the potential abuser's attention to something else, or send someone they know over to start a conversation with them? Can you pull the victim aside by asking them to help you clean something up, help you fix your makeup, hang out in a different room, etc.?

  • Physical presence

    Sometimes just being near a potential victim is enough to stop abuse: it'll make it a public situation. Try to have conversations with the victim and keep hanging out with them.

  • Calling out

    If you can do it safely, call the perpetrator out on their behaviour.

  • Asking/demanding that the perpetrator leave

    If someone is being abusive, tell them they've got to go. Try to ask first. Depending on the situation, consider getting someone like a bouncer, campus security officer, etc. to ask the perpetrator to leave.

  • Supporting a vulnerable person

    Be kind.

How to help someone who has been sexually assaulted

Someone has just told you she/he/they have been sexually assaulted. What can you do?

  • Believe them

    Listen without judgement. You may be the first and only person the victim will tell. Remind them it's not their fault. Belief is a powerful tool and is often the first step in the positive healing of a sexual assault survivor. Survivors who get a positive response when they tell someone are more likely to get the help they need.
  • Make sure they're safe

    Ask if you can contact police or campus Safety & Security if there is an imminent safety issue. Offer to be a support person if the victim decides to go to the police or to another support group.
  • Respect choices and value boundaries

    Don't push for additional details. You can encourage talking, but do not pressure the victim to talk. Focus on listening. Do not "take over": offer suggestions but let the victim make decisions.
  • Respect confidentiality

    Ensure they understand how and when you will share information they have provided to you.
  • Ask what support looks like for them

    Let go of assumptions. Reporting the incident is not every survivor's choice or version of justice.
  • Empathize

    Understand everyone deals differently with trauma and everyone's healing process is not the same.

Learn more about how to help a friend at Break the Silence.

Education and Training

  • Learn more about how to support a survivor by reading our We Believe You (PDF) guide.

  • Waves of Change: Creating Campus Response to Sexual Violence is an education program that takes a bystander approach, meaning that the trainings are centered around the idea that everyone has a role to play in ending sexual violence. This program is specific to Nova Scotia campuses and includes up to five modules delivered by trained facilitators. To become a by-stander facilitator, or to book a session for your team or group, please contact counselling@acadiau.ca