Give support

two speech bubbles – illustration

For many survivors, it is difficult to share about an experience of sexualized and gender-based violence. It is important that all disclosures and reports of sexualized and gender-based violence are responded to in a consistent, respectful and supportive manner. Supportive responses center the rights and preferences of the survivor, offer compassion and understanding, and provide clear, accurate information about options. 

While it can be hard to know how to respond to a disclosure of sexualized and gender-based violence, keep in mind: you don't have to be an expert to be helpful. Just remember the acronym BRAVE.

B - Begin by listening
R - Respect confidentiality
A - Ask what support looks like to them
V - Validate them
E - Empathize

(Toronto Metropolitan University, formally Ryerson University, n.d)

Begin by listening

Begin by listening. Talking about an incident of sexualized and gender-based violence can be a difficult decision, and a stressful experience. You can help make this easier by avoiding the urge to ask for details. Talking about trauma can be traumatizing, and recounting details without the right support can make things harder for the survivor. Let them share at their pace and respect the boundaries they set. 


Respect confidentiality. Speaking up about sexualized and gender-based violence is not easy. It is important that a survivor understands the level of confidentiality they can expect before making a disclosure.

Some supports can provide complete confidentiality, while others are bound by limitations and required to report some information to specific additional parties. Knowing in advance about these limitations can help the survivor make informed decisions about what to disclose, and with whom to share.

Staff Obligation to Report

Mohawk College's Sexual Assault and Sexualized Violence policy requires that all College employees (including suppliers, contractors, volunteers etc.) who have knowledge of sexualized violence are obligated to make a Third Party Report to Mohawk Security Services. A Third Party report can be made anonymously, and will not identify the survivor without that person's consent. 


Ask what support looks like for them. Sexualized and gender-based violence affects everyone differently. Avoid making assumptions about what the survivor needs, or how they "should" be responding. Asking what would be helpful, and how you can support them is a good way to ensure the person making the disclosure is in control of what happens next.

Keep in mind, it's possible that the survivor might not know where to start. This can be a difficult and confusing question to answer, but it helps to know that you support whatever choice they make. Once a survivor has decided what they would like to do next, there are plenty of free and accessible services, staffed by trained professionals, that you can recommend.

If you live outside of the Hamilton region, contact sv-gbvsupport [at] (subject: Get%20Support) (SV-GBVSupport[at]mohawkcollege[dot]ca) for assistance finding resources in your area. 

Remember: you are not required to disclose or report sexual violence to obtain services and supports through the College. 

Resources at Mohawk College

Resources in the Hamilton Area


Validate them. Remind the survivor that it's not their fault, and that they're believed. People who have been affected by sexualized and gender-based violence can face a lot of barriers in sharing their experiences; and being challenged, questioned or disbelieved can add to the harm. Listening without judgement and responding in ways that acknowledge the truth of what the person is sharing can go a long way to helping them feel supported. 

Believing a survivor can sound like:

"Thank you for trusting me"

"This is not your fault"

"I'm sorry this happened"

"You're not alone"


Empathize. Understand that everyone has a different way of healing from violence. An empathetic response is one that seeks to understand how the person being supported is feeling, and having the capacity to "put yourself in someone else's shoes" in order to respond in the most helpful way for that person. 

Check out this video from Bréne Brown to learn more about empathy.