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There are lots of different ways that we can support people who come forward and tell us about their experiences. Some of the easiest things we can do are just being there for a person, listening to what they want to share, and validating the feelings that are coming up for them. Some specific messages you can keep in mind are:
I believe you
Many people don’t come forward with their experiences of sexual assault because they fear that they won’t be believed. We see many situations where people who come forward are shamed and blamed for the assault. Because of this fear it is important for supporters to realize how impactful the first response of “I believe you” can be for someone disclosing their experience of sexual violence.
It’s not your fault
Feelings of shame and self-blame are very common for people who have been sexually assaulted. They often feel as though the assault was their fault or that they brought it on in some way. One of the main messages we can convey is that the assault was not their fault, no matter what. It is important for people to know that no matter who they are, what they were doing, what clothing they were wearing, whether they were drinking, flirting, or dancing, none of it makes what was done to them their fault. The fault and responsibility of sexual violence always lies 100% with the person who chose to be sexually violent towards another person.
I support your decisions
Sexual violence results in someone’s control being taken away from them. One of the ways we can help people feel that sense of control again is by supporting their decisions. We let them take the lead on what their path to recovery will look like. We strongly encourage exploring options with them together rather than just telling them what they “should” do. Let them know what is available to them and talk to them about how each option might fit best in their life. Once you’ve explored all the options, make sure to let them be the one to make the decision.
There are lots of conversations going on about how to best prevent sexual violence. Often people talk about providing tips such as “don’t walk alone at night” being the best ways of preventing sexual violence. At our centre we actually disagree with the use of tips as a method of prevention for many reasons. Instead, we think the true prevention should be focused on creating cultural change. But what does that look like? Here are some ideas:
We all have the power to challenge the attitudes and beliefs that are held within society surrounds the ideas about sexual violence.
Challenge your own beliefs: Each one of us have our own upbringings that teach inaccurate perspectives on sexual abuse along with various social constructs within society. These are opportunities to reflect on your own views and the way that they may impact how you address certain situations that happen in our society.
Teach and Practice Healthy Relationships: Talk to family and friend in your life about rape culture and how it affects everyone. We all play a role in how it’s perpetuated in society, for instance the media, music, and language that we consume.
Do not tolerate jokes about sexual violence:
Challenge myths where and when you can:
Challenge the notion that women are “objects of men’s desire”
Messages in the Media: Modern culture is full of stereotypical messages that promote sexual assault and sexual abuse. Male hero tends to be strong, unemotional and sexually dominant. On the other hand women are often portrayed as sexual objects or victims. Studies show that these types of messages may predispose men to violence against women.
Power of Language: Using language that degrades and objectifies women contributes to gender inequality which is strongly connected with an increased incidence of sexual violence.
Speak out: also have these conversations with men in your life as well. Sexual assault and abuse is not a women’s issue it is a human rights issue. Men must be involved in the solution to ending sexual violence. Men must be partners with women in addressing this issue. People are standing up publicly against sexual abuse and assault more than ever. Through challenging attitudes and behaviors we send a strong message about what we as a community are willing to tolerate. Holding people accountable and stop putting it on the responsibility of women to keep themselves safe.
It is important to note that trauma affects everyone differently. Whether you are the person who directly are impacted or if you were the person supporting someone through their healing. Our mental, psychical, emotional, psychological and spiritual wellbeing is affected and it’s extremely important to take care of yourself after providing that support.
Self-care is critical to our wellbeing, this is why it’s important to incorporate strategies to help reduce and manage stress. Please remember that it is normal to have mixed emotions after supporting someone especially through this work. Indicators may take days, weeks or even months to show up. Here are some tips to help you cope:
*Ask yourself what does self-care mean to you?
*Create a list of self-care strategies that you can refer to when you’re in need of reducing stress.
CONTEST (“CONTEST”) SPONSORED BY Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse (“SPONSOR”) AND ADMINISTERED BY Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse (“ADMINISTRATOR”). CONTEST BEGINS ON May 1, 2021 at 8:00 AM MTN AND ENDS ON May 31, 2021 at 11:59 PM MTN . (“CONTEST PERIOD”).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. ONLY AN EMAIL ADDRESS is required. By participating, entrants agree to be bound by these Official Rules and the decisions of the Sponsor and Administrator. Void where prohibited by law.
Contest is open to legal residents of Alberta who have reached the age of majority in their respective province or territory of residence at the time of entry. Employees or contractors of the Sponsor(s) and immediate family members of, and any persons domiciled with any such employees or contractors, are not eligible to enter.
One winner will be chosen at random using the Rafflecopter widget. The odds of winning will depend on the number of entries received. The winner will be sent an email and will have forty-eight hours to respond. If no response is received within forty-eight hours, another winner will be chosen. Administrators are not responsible for prize fulfillment nor for any technical failures. Winning entry will be verified.
Residents of Canada will be required to enter a skill-testing question to claim their prize.
Administrators and sponsors reserve the right to publish winner’s first name and last initial.
Images included in the giveaway post may not depict the exact prize, and are for illustrative purposes only.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions.
© 2021 Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse