Section 2: Considerations for Facilitators

Facilitating Discussion

Asking Questions to Promote Critical Thinking

Using questions is a simple way to deepen discussion and to promote critical thinking. We all make assumptions in order to arrive at opinions of how things are, what is important, and how things “should be.” Drawing out learner’s thoughts through the use of critical questions can help you to understand how to connect key concepts to learners’ personal experiences.

Key questions to encourage critical thinking could include:

  • “Could you say a little more about that?”
  • “Can you take us through your thinking on that?”
  • “Where did you learn that?”
  • “When did you first think that?”
  • “When did you start thinking about that differently? What happened to change your mind?”

You also can ask questions to help reframe an issue. For example:

  • Why do we teach people how to avoid sexual assault rather than teach people how not to sexually assault others?
  • Why do you think that sexual violence is usually seen as a women’s issue? What responsibility do you think men might have in stopping sexual violence? How are people of all genders impacted?

Responding to Common Myths about Sexual Violence

There are many stereotypes, myths, and beliefs about sexual violence that do not reflect what research evidence tells us about sexual violence. There are many different approaches to responding to common myths during a discussion, including sharing statistics or research, asking a reflective question, clarifying definitions and concepts, or sharing an anecdote or experiential perspective. Below are some suggestions on how to respond to common myths about sexual violence (Sexual Violence and Prevention Response Office, 2020).

Common Myths Possible Responses
False reports

“People are lying or exaggerating when they talk about experiencing sexual violence.”

“What are some reasons why people wouldn’t disclose? How are people usually treated when they say something? Do we really think people would lie knowing these barriers and potential responses?”

“The number of false reports for sexual assault is very low, consistent with the number of false reports for other crimes in Canada.”

Clothing what a victim was wearing or doing

“If they’re dressing “that” way then they’re kind of asking for it.”

“Why did she go there [party, hotel, nightclub]?

“Nobody asks to be assaulted.”

“Research has shown that outfits aren’t associated with assaults – there’s no kind of outfit that makes violence less likely.”

“Consider if this response was applied to other crimes. For example, if your car was broken into and the police officers began questioning you about why you chose to park in a “bad” part of town. Does this sound fair?”

Ulterior motives

“Survivors are only looking for attention/status/money, or are acting out of regret.”

“What kind of attention do survivors who come forward (especially publicly) typically get? Are they famous now?”

“Do we really think people would rather face negative social responses than manage their own regret if that’s what happened?”

“How might people’s desire to see the world as a good/safe place influence whether they believe survivors?”

Caution has gone too far

“People nowadays are too sensitive/overly politically correct/ anything can be construed as sexual violence.”

“Who tends to be the person who is behaving ‘overly sensitive’? Who tends to be the other party?”

“If you knew that something deeply hurt someone, why would you choose to continue anyways? What do you lose by ‘not doing the thing that causes harm’?”

Drinking alcohol or using other substances

“So, basically, you’re saying anyone who’s had sex while they were drunk has actually raped someone.”

“The law says that in some situations a person may be affected by alcohol or drugs so much that they can’t give legal consent. When a person can’t give legal consent, any sexual activity with them is sexual assault. If you want to do something sexual with someone who’s been drinking alcohol or using drugs, you must be very careful that their thinking is clear. They must be able to decide freely if they want to be sexual with you and be able to communicate their consent clearly.”

“If a person is unconscious or incapable of consenting due to the use of alcohol or drugs, he/she/they cannot legally give consent. Without consent, it is sexual assault.”

“Alcohol is the number one drug used in drug-facilitated sexual assault.”

“Some people who have been sexually assaulted blame themselves because they were drinking and might not describe what happened to them as sexual assault. If they didn’t consent, it is considered sexual assault.”

Assumptions about perpetrators

“But they’re such a nice person! I’ve never been uncomfortable around them.”

“Different countries have different understanding so they just do it more.”

“Most sexual assault is committed by strangers….usually outside in dark, dangerous places.”

“About 80% of the time, the survivor knows the perpetrator. They can include dating partners, acquaintances, and common-law or married partners.”

“Just because you have never experienced something with a person doesn’t mean others haven’t.”

“We need to be careful with really broad generalizations about specific cultures. Perpetrators come from many different cultures and backgrounds. People from the same culture may hold very different values.”

“The majority of sexual assaults happen in private spaces like a residence or private home.”

Adapted from: Sexual Violence and Prevention Response Office. (2020). Bystander Intervention (Facilitation notes). Thompson River University. Used with permission.

Transitions and Difficult Conversations

While facilitating, you are likely to encounter challenging moments when you might not be sure how to respond, when you strongly disagree with the perspective of the learner, or when the conversation has shifted in a direction that makes you concerned for the comfort and safety of other learners.

Below are some potential responses for handling difficult moments (Sexual Violence and Prevention Response Office, 2020):

  • “Interesting. I’m not sure how to respond to that. Let me think on that for a minute and I’ll bring us back to that”
  • “I’m not comfortable with where this conversation is going. I’d like to bring us back to some of the activities/questions we had planned.”
  • “I’m just getting conscious of time here. Let’s move on for now.”
  • “How do you think that comment might land for a survivor? I’m reminded of the commitments we all made when we came to the workshop…”
  • “Tell me more about that.”
  • “Where did you learn that/where does that thinking come from? Does anyone benefit from that?”
  • “It’s okay for us to agree to disagree. Let’s move on for now.”



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Consent & Sexual Violence: Training and Facilitation Guide Copyright © 2021 by Sexual Violence Training Development Team is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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