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I am a relative/close friend of a sexual assault victim. What should I do?

Step 1 

Refer the victim to a designated centre if they were assaulted…

…within the past five days

  • Tell the victim to go directly to the closest designated centre. Five days is the limit for obtaining forensic samples that can be used as evidence.

  • If you are comfortable doing so, offer to accompany the victim to the centre. If they do not wish to be accompanied, respect their decision and let them go alone.

six days ago or more

  • Tell the victim to go to a designated centre.

  • If you are comfortable doing so, offer to accompany the victim to the centre. If they do not wish to be accompanied, respect their decision and let them go alone.

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Step 2

Get informed

Do some research to learn more about sexual assault, consent, the rape culture and sexual violence and the myths and realities that surround sexual assault. The better you understand the issue, the more support you will be able to offer your loved one who was sexually assaulted

Step 3

Four positive attitudes to adopt

Accompany and support

Be present to listen to the victim and provide support.

How?  

  • Call or text the person regularly to find out how they are doing. 

  • Help them find a specialized resource that will be able to help them.

  • Offer to accompany them to their appointments with their doctor, counsellor or other.

Validate their feelings

Help the victim express what they are feeling by validating those feelings and recognizing that their reactions, emotions and feelings are normal. Let them take all the time they need to heal in the short, medium and long term.

What should I say?  

  • It’s completely normal to feel ____________. 

  • It’s completely normal for you to react that way. 

  • Anyone would have reacted the way you did in the same situation.

Listen without judging

Victims must be allowed to express themselves in their own words, in their own way and at their own pace.

What should I say?  

  • How are you doing today?

  • How are you feeling? 

  • If you feel like talking about what happened, I’m ready to listen.

Believe

Believe what the victim tells you: it was their experience, no one else’s. Explain that it wasn’t their fault they were sexually assaulted, and that the assailant is entirely responsible for their actions.

What should I say?  

  • I believe you. You didn’t do anything wrong. 

  • The only person who is responsible for the assault is the person who assaulted you. 

  • You made the right decisions based on the information you had at the time of the assault. You couldn’t know then what you know now.

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Step 4

Recognize your own limits. 

If you follow all the steps described above, you are already providing your loved one with invaluable support in their healing process.

 

Supporting someone who has been sexually assaulted can require a great deal of energy. It is therefore important that you monitor your own mental health and that you recognize when a situation exceeds your ability. This is perfectly normal. Since you are probably not a professional who has been trained to help sexual assault victims, there is a limit to what you can do.

If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing you can do for your loved one is to refer them to a resource where trained professionals can give them the help they need.

Step 5

Find out where to get help and refer the victim to the appropriate resource.

If you need to speak confidentially or find resources and tools to help someone who has been sexually assaulted, call the Sexual Violence Helpline at 1 888 933-9007. This toll-free telephone service offers bilingual, confidential support 24/7 across Québec and Canada.

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For more information

* To learn more about how best to help loved ones who have been sexually assaulted, consult the Information Guide for Sexual Assault Victims. 

** To find out how to react in cases of doubt or disclosure of situations involving a child, consult the pamphlet entitled Filing a report with the DYP is already protecting a child, the website of the Marie-Vincent Foundation and the guide published by CAVAC (crime victims assistance centre).