If someone discloses an experience of violence, listen and validate the person’s experience.
Do not assume you know what they need. They may be talking to you for many reasons, such as wanting to feel safe, prevent another occurrence, looking for justice, seeking support, or reporting the incident.
Reassure them that they are not alone and that there are services to support them through SACOMSS as well as other resources.
You can also reach out to DIAL for more guidance about how to better support them.
An acronym used to support disclosures of sexual assault is C.A.L.M.:
C – Create a safe environment
- Assess for safety or immediate risk.
- Ensure privacy.
- Demonstrate that you believe the person with your words and actions.
- Explain any limits to your confidentiality.
A – Ask
- Ask “How can I best support you?” Don’t assume.
- Ask non-detailed, open-ended questions that communicate belief and offer support.
- Avoid intrusive or detailed questions.
L – Listen and validate
- Thank the person for disclosing.
- Validate their feelings.
- Follow their lead.
- Ensure that they have autonomy.
- Reassure them that they are not alone.
- Avoid touching the person without their consent.
M – Make connections
- Tell the person about the University’s Policy Against Sexual Violence and the Centre.
- Explain that support services are available.
- If they are comfortable, help facilitate a connection to the Centre.
Adapted from University of Toronto SVPS Centre