Section 3: Supporting Survivors Training Guide

Facilitation Considerations

Before facilitating this training, you will want to ensure that you are well-informed about campus and community support services including which staff members at your institution are designated to receive sexual violence reports. Make sure you are aware of reporting options, including their processes: no report, report to institution/college, report to police, third party report to police, medical assistance, forensic medical exam, civil claim as well as any union requirements to report sexual violence.

You will also want to create or update a resource that provides a comprehensive list of on-campus and community-based services, including police-based and community-based victim services workers, counsellors, and the 24-hour emergency crisis line phone number. See Section 1: Getting Started for a list of what to include and download an example of a “Supporting Survivors” resource list below.

Supporting Survivors: A Resource Handout for the Selkirk College Community [PDF] is an example of a two-page handout which lists resources for supporting survivors as well as provides suggestions for members of the campus community on how to respond to disclosures. Developed by Selkirk College (2016). Used with permission.

Different campus community groups may have different responses to sexual violence training. For example, younger students, female students, those who have experienced sexual assault and those involved in extra-curricular activities are more likely to endorse and believe sexual violence prevention education programs are useful for themselves and the post-secondary institution as a whole (Jozkowski, Henry, & Sturm, 2015). Students whose studies include related fields (e.g., social work, mental health, etc.), are likely to have a positive response to the training, while other students, staff and community groups may have mixed appreciation for the relevance of sexual violence training. Unfortunately, sub-groups of students that are generally considered at higher risk of committing sexual violence —men and individuals on either intramural sports teams or university athletic sports teams—are more likely to believe that sexual violence education is not important for them personally or for the student body as a whole (Jozkowski, et. al, 2015).

In general, the primary outcome for this training is to increase the confidence and skills of learners to safely and effectively respond to disclosures of sexual violence. Careful consideration for the audience demographics and making necessary adjustments to the training, choice of facilitators and delivery style, can increase the engagement of learners and the overall efficacy of this training.

In addition to matching the facilitators with the learner groups, an important adjustment is to apply practice scenarios and conversation topics that are most relevant to the learner group. This training provides several diverse scenarios, and you should use scenarios that the learners are most likely to encounter. You can also create additional practice scenarios and conversation topics based on your knowledge of the learners you will be working with.

Below are some considerations for specific groups of learners.

Male-Dominant Groups

As mentioned, male-dominant learner groups (e.g., trades programs, male sports teams) may display resistance to sexual violence training (e.g., they may be supportive of rape myths). In such instances, male facilitators can play an important role by utilizing their position and privilege to centre the conversation on sexual violence as primarily a men’s issue (see, for example, Jackson Katz’s substantive work in this area). Regardless of the identity of the survivor, perpetrators of sexual violence are primarily men.

When learners express being supportive of rape myths, a powerful example can be to compare the lack of response to sexual violence with the response to other crimes. In other words, what would it look like if authorities responded to other crimes in the way they respond to sexual violence? “Imagine your car is broken into and the police respond by questioning and blaming you for the ‘bad area of town’ you decided to leave your car in.”

Statistics (i.e., high rates of sexual violence, at-risk groups, etc.) can also be helpful when you encounter resistance. Relevant statistics can be found throughout this training, in both the slides and facilitation notes. However, it is important that you make explicit that groups are targeted for violence as a result of systemic discrimination within institutions and communities, not through actions of their own.

Faculty and Staff Groups

To ensure that all members of the campus community, including faculty and staff, take seriously issues related to sexual violence and their responsibilities in prevention and response, “[p]ost-secondary institutions are encouraged to develop comprehensive responses to sexual violence that are led by senior administration at the college/university” (EVA-BC, 2016a, p. 16). Presidents, vice-presidents, and deans have an important role in ensuring that all mid-level administrators, faculty and staff are involved with sexual violence training and are aware of the institution’s sexual violence and misconduct policies. In addition to role-modeling the importance of training on sexual violence prevention and response through their own participation, top-level administrators can strongly encourage participation and training for all staff, faculty and students.

Certain learner groups may be more likely to be directly involved in receiving disclosures and assisting in reporting as part of their role in the post-secondary institution (i.e., staff and faculty groups). For these groups, additional information about the various disclosure and reporting options available may be helpful (see table below). Facilitators should also be aware of any processes that are in place though either institution or union policies. Consider creating a flow-chart illustrating the possible sequential order of steps in a disclosure or reporting process. For more information see EVA-BC’s Practice Tips for Universities and Colleges (2016).

There are many options for survivors in disclosing and reporting experiences of sexual violence. A survivor may choose any of the following options or a combination of them.

No Police Report Survivor discloses (i.e., tells someone) but does not make a report.
Report to Police A report to police is best made with support from a community-based victim services worker.
Report to Campus Security A formal or informal report made to campus security.
Third Party Report to Police via Community Victim Service Agency Survivors can make an anonymous report to police through a third-party, community-based victim services agency. This can help police identify perpetrators in order to protect others from sexual violence.

Adapted from: Ending Violence Association of BC. (2016). Responding to a Sexual Assault Disclosure: Practice Tips for Universities and Colleges.

Facilitators should also be aware of the academic and non-academic accommodations available to survivors of sexual violence. There may be accommodations available for employees also.

Non-Academic Accommodations may relate to housing, employment or other forms of financial aid. For example, students may request a change of residence and employees may request a change of department or faculty.

Academic Accommodations may include permission to miss classes, extensions on assignments, course withdrawal without penalty  and other accommodations to support survivors’ academic success.

International Students

In communities where sex is considered to be a taboo topic, it may be difficult for learners who are international students to engage in certain discussions. Discomfort discussing sex may also become a barrier for obtaining consent and disclosing sexual violence. It can be best to acknowledge the discomfort and not assume that everyone has the same level of sex education. Some cultures are not as likely to engage in direct eye contact or focused body language. Language can also be a barrier for students and careful consideration should be given to avoiding jargon and slang as well as checking for comprehension and the cultural context of certain topics. In some cultures, “no” may not be verbalized and is presented instead through body language or silence. Alternatively, other phrases may be used to convey a “no”, such as “not right now” or “I’m not comfortable.” Referring to Canadian legislation related to sexual violence, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and your institution’s sexual violence and misconduct policy can be helpful to explain.

It will be important to be clear on the many definitions presented throughout the training and specifically what is meant by a “disclosure” and “report.” Learners will process the information better knowing that there are options and that they can make their own decisions. Information about free services and supports which include police and third party reporting, access to medical options and community resources increase safety and empower international students to make informed decisions which are right for them.

During your sessions, help learners of other backgrounds to understand that there are many reasons why an international student may not be willing to report sexual violence. They may have specific needs and challenges in accessing help. Language barriers, fear of deportation, fear of the perpetrator and fear of isolation from their peer group for disclosing, cultural stigma and often not understanding the legalities around sexual violence and consent are all factors. Being knowledgeable about resources, supports, and immigration regulations will help to support the disclosure. Like all survivors, it is important to believe international students when they disclose and to validate their feelings: international students may blame themselves based on their cultural expectations and stigma associated with sex and sexual violence. See MOSAICBC for more information on challenges specific to international students.

People who are LGBTQ2ISA+

People in the LGBTQ2SIA+ community are disproportionately targeted by perpetrators of sexual violence. Because of the lasting societal prevalence of homophobia, transphobia and queerphobia, they may be isolated from supportive networks of families and friends. Experiences with medical professionals and the criminal justice system may not offer culturally competent support or a sense of safety for queer victims of sexual violence. Likewise, victims of queer sexual violence may be reluctant to seek support or report the harm done to them (e.g., a straight, cisgender man may feel shame about being victimized by another man and choose not to seek support). The LGBTQ2SIA+ community is often seen as a safe haven from those who may violently target queer and transgender people, so victims and survivors of sexual violence may be reluctant to disclose that they have been harmed by sexual violence from those within their community. Care must be taken to understand and acknowledge the intersecting oppressions faced by LGBTQ2SIA+ people of colour and those who are disabled and Indigenous. If at all possible, offer community and campus resources for queer victims of sexual violence that are culturally relevant (i.e., resources for Two Spirit people, queers of colour, disabled queers, religious queers, etc.).


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Supporting Survivors: 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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