What to do if a student shares an experience of sexual violence
Our sexual violence policy states that all members of the Trent Community share the responsibility to create and maintain an environment free from sexual violence by not perpetrating sexual violence, or perpetuating rape culture, and by conducting bystander interventions or getting help if it is not safe to intervene. Although you are not an expert in responding to sexual violence, a student may feel safe to share their experience with you. Here are some tips to help you through what could be a difficult conversation.
Having students disclose an experience of sexual violence to you can be very difficult. Please keep their disclosure confidential unless there is an imminent risk of physical harm. To help you assess this risk, feel free to connect with Campus Security. Read more below.
Your responsibility is to listen, be non-judgmental and refer to resources. The most important staff member to refer to is the Sexual Violence Prevention & Peer Support Coordinator. They provide support and resources to students who have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. Support may include referrals to off campus resources, advocacy for accommodations, and assistance in navigating campus policies, procedures and options. Students can access support by sending an email directly to Robyn Ocean at email@example.com.
Robyn Ocean is also responsible for coordinating workshops and trainings related to sexual violence prevention and support.
If a student shares with you their experience of sexual violence, please consider the following tips to help you through what could be a difficult conversation:
1. Staff, Faculty and Teaching Assistants can provide support to students. Your role is not to investigate, and so it's ok to say you believe them.
Here are some helpful things to say:
- "I'm sorry this happened"
- "Thank you for sharing this with me”
- "I can assist in accommodating you"
- "You don't have to go through this alone"
- “It’s not your fault”
- Stay calm and try not to show shock or disbelief
Here are some things to avoid:
- Do not press for more details or ask leading questions
- Do not make guarantees, including about confidentiality.*
- Do not ask questions that may be seen as judgmental (for example 'Why didn't you run away?' or ‘Was it recent?’)
2. In an emergency, if the student shares they are unsafe, please help them call Trent Security at 705-748-1333. You are also encouraged to call Security for support and guidance if you are unsure what to do, if you are concerned that the student or another person is at imminent risk of physical harm including self-harm, and/or if this is a situation in which there may be a duty to report.*
3. Inform the student about the Sexual Violence Prevention Coordinator who can offer support and resources. Speaking with the Coordinator does not breech confidentiality with the student, this staff member is considered in the circle of care. You can ask them if they would like you to send an email to the Coordinator to connect them, here is the contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. Please ensure their confidentiality and do not disclose information without their verbal consent unless there is an imminent risk and/or a duty to report (see “Confidentiality” below). If a student discloses to you, or if the Coordinator speaks to you about accommodations, you must be discrete. Even if you have to involve other members of your department, TAs, or faculty members, please do not share the reasons why the student is being accommodated.
5. There is a workshop designed for staff, faculty, and TA's to learn more about how to support student survivors of sexual violence. Learn more about this opportunity by checking out the Student Support Certificate website.
Our Approach to Supporting Students
At Trent, we take pride in our survivor-centered sexual violence policy. We provide support and resources as guided by the student’s wishes. We do not make decisions for them or tell them what they should do. It is integral that we maintain the student’s confidentiality unless there is a threat of imminent physical harm.
Sexual Violence Policy:
Our policy also states that students who have experienced sexual violence shall be accommodated. Accommodation for persons affected by sexual violence may include academic accommodation, relocation of residence rooms, voluntary withdrawal from classes with full tuition refund, interim safety plans, and provision of supports and services.
Students do not have to disclose details of their experience in order to access these supports and may explain they are seeking accommodation for compassionate reasons with grounds substantiated in Trent’s policy.
Support for You:
If you would like further support or advice in assisting a student who has disclosed sexual violence, please feel free to contact email@example.com.
If you yourself have experienced sexual violence in your role as staff/faculty, and require support, please reach out to your supervisor and/or your Employee Assistance Program, and when applicable to your situation, either Campus Security or Human Resources.
Please check out the following link to see this information online, and feel free to explore the rest of the website.
Thank you for your time, and thank you for helping to support students who have experienced sexual violence.
Feel free to share this link on your Blackboard Course or in your slide deck to orient students to their supports and resources.
* Under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act Ontario (2017), anyone who has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child (who is or appears to be under 16 years of age) is, or may be, in need of protection, must promptly report the suspicion and the information upon which it is based to a children's aid society. A professional, or member of the public, who is concerned that a 16-or 17- year-old is or may be in need of protection may, but is not required to, make a report to a children's aid society, and the society is required to assess the reported information.
Any disclosure or report, and information contained therein, will be considered confidential except when there is reasonable cause to believe that anyone, including the respondent, is at risk of imminent physical harm, including self-harm, or if there is a concern about the safety or welfare of a child.