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Responding to a disclosure of sexualized violence

The Purple Folder is your guide to responding when someone shares an experience of sexualized violence

Sexualized violence is an umbrella term that can include but is not limited to: creating and/or sharing images without consent, stalking or voyeurism (watching others engaged in sexual activities or naked), intimate partner violence, and online harassment of a sexual nature. Please refer to the Sexualized Violence Policy for complete definitions.

As we continue to shift towards a climate on campus that promotes positive consent culture and encourages frank, open, and honest conversations, we recognize that this may bring about difficult, uncomfortable, and heavy conversations. 

The Purple Folder [PDF-2.3MB] outlines positive and negative responses, resources, and supports that exist on campus and in the community, referral options, and other resources to help you navigate those discussions. 

Our sexualized violence advisor is available to provide support in answering any questions, debriefing, and follow up.

Key steps

Some key steps for supporting someone who has shared an experience of sexualized violence:

  •  Believe them.
  •  Thank them for sharing.
  •  Validate their feelings.
  •  Reassure them that the assault was not their fault.
  •  Ask them how they want to be supported.
  •  Address immediate needs.
  •  Don’t tell them what to do.
  •  Respect what they decide to do.
  •  When they are ready, make them aware of additional resources.

When someone shares an experience of sexualized violence

Every act of sexualized violence has an impact and there’s no ‘right’ reaction. 

  •  “Thank you for sharing your experience with me. You are not alone. I believe you.”
    • It’s ok to express concern
    • Explain any limits to your confidentiality (ex. RAs, athletics, security)
  • “Are you safe right now? Do you have any immediate needs I can support you with?”
  • “Would you like to talk about some of the supports and resources available on campus and in the community?”
    • Offer choice and respect their decisions about which supports feel right
  • “Would you like to talk about some of the reporting options available?”
    • Offering choice and respecting their decisions about which reporting options feel right
    • A Disclosure to the Sexualized Violence Advisor allows for specialized advice, access to accommodations, reporting options, ans support navigation
    • A Disclousure of Report ot the Sexualized Violence Advisor does not initiate a report to the police, unless obligated by law.

  • “Why were you there? What were you wearing? Why didn’t you leave? What were you drinking?” 
    • Why not: victim blaming and the responsibility of sexualized violence lies with the perpetrator 
  • “You should report this so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. You should get a forensic examination for evidence. You should report this to the police.” 
    • Why not: coercive and restoring choice is an important part of the healing journey 
  • “It could have been worse. Take it off your mind. Boys will be boys.” 
    • Why not: minimizing experience 

Disclosure and report

Disclosure refers to the sharing of information by a member of the university community (or visitor) with the sexualized violence advisor about an experience of sexualized violence that individual has had. The individual can choose to share as much or as little information as they want. 

Report refers to a written statement of allegations submitted to the sexualized violence advisor, or other member of the university community, about an experience of sexualized violence that individual has had.

A disclosure and a report are separate actions that a member of the university community can choose to take. A visitor can only make a disclosure.

Additionally, the Purple Folder has some inserts that may be useful in responding to an experience of sexualized violence in a survivor-centred and trauma-informed manner.