Colonial Barriers to Supports: The Need For a Holistic Approach to Healing from Sexual Violence

National statistics suggest that Indigenous women are three times more likely to experience sexual violence than their non-Indigenous counterparts.  

In light of Indigenous History Month, we wanted to share our research findings on the unique experiences and barriers to supports and services Indigenous peoples face in regards to sexual violence. Indigenous experiences of sexual violence stem from colonization and mechanisms of cultural assimilation established through government policy such as the Residential School system and the Sixties Scoop which perpetuated abuse and loss of culture. These mechanisms have resulted in the current systemic racism and intergenerational trauma that continues to impact Indigenous communities today. 

We discovered the following barriers impacting Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan:

SERVICES

There is a definite lack of services available to survivors in northern Indigenous communities. Additionally, due to the small population of these communities, it is difficult to seek out services in a private and anonymous manner. Counselors may even be related to the survivor or perpetrator creating an unwillingness to seek help.

The services that do exist are often underfunded and understaffed, making it difficult to adequately meet the demand for support. Service providers explained that many rural and remote Indigenous communities face  disproportionately high rates of sexual violence with very few resources or supports. Additionally, high turnover rates of service staff prevents some individuals from seeking support as they are not able to establish and maintain strong rapport with service workers. Many find this necessary after negative experiences seeking help and require time to build trust within the client-professional relationship. 

There is also a need for historically informed practice and traditional healing methods for survivors of sexual violence. Services that lack consideration of historical violence and the impacts of intergenerational trauma can cause further harm to those seeking help because they fail to acknowledge the full experience of the individual and the root causes of the harm. Services need to be more culturally competent and inclusive, incorporating Indigenous traditions for a more holistic approach to healing.

TRANSPORTATION

The removal of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company has limited survivors in rural Indigenous communities from leaving abusive situations or accessing services outside of their communities. For many, the transportation company was their only option to seek safety. This is especially detrimental as they may not have the necessary services in their community or feel unsafe accessing them due to the lack of anonymity. In some areas, this also means they must disclose their reason for leaving to the band or local government in an application for transportation assistance, a requirement reminiscent of the pass system which required Indigenous people to obtain permission from an Indian agent to leave or return to their reserve. Today, the system of transportation restricts free movement and may force people to disclose their sexual assault or domestic abuse in order to access necessary services.

RACISM 

Many Indigenous individuals have experienced racism while seeking health care and justice supports making them hesitant to report their assault to police, seek medical attention, or obtain a sexual assault forensic kit. This results in survivors not receiving the medical support they may need and prevents referrals to mental health supports. Additionally, forensic kits are often the only physical evidence in sexual assault trials and can be crucial to the prosecution’s case should the survivor decide to report. However, fear and distrust of police prevent survivors from seeking justice, contributing to the extremely high underreporting rates of sexual violence offences.

INTERGENERATIONAL TRAUMA

Service providers explained that sexual violence has become normailized and intergenerational in many rural and remote Indigenous communities. Sexual violence has become so normalized in some communities that it is no longer treated as a crisis, but rather a fact of life. This is because of intergenerational trauma stemming from Canada’s history of colonization and cultural assimilation. 

Intergenerational trauma is when the trauma of one generation is passed to the next. Essentially, parents may pass their trauma to their children through learned beliefs and behaviours causing children to adopt parts of their parent’s traumas as their own. The original trauma often occurred outside of the family unit or community through acts of oppression. In the case of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, this original trauma encompasses the cultural assimilation and genocide faced during colonization.This is also known as historical trauma which is when a traumatic experience creates collective loss within a community and results in a legacy of social and psychological responses. This can sometimes manifest as stress, anxiety, PTSD, or unhealthy coping mechanisms. Intergenerational trauma can then combine with present traumatic experiences such as racism and violence. 

Services and supports that fail to recognize the impact of intergenerational trauma on the prevalence of sexual violence are complicit in said violence and will be inadequate to creating change.

Do you want to increase your understanding of racism and the impacts of colonization? Find out how to be a better ally with our Anti-Racism Resource Guide: http://sassk.ca/anti-racism-resource-guide/

For more information about this topic, read the sources of our information:

Sexual Violence in Saskatchewan: Voices, Stories, Insights, and Actions from the Front Lines

Hidden Burdens: a Review of Intergenerational, Historical
and Complex Trauma, Implications for Indigenous Families

BREAKING THE BINARY: Working Towards an Inclusive Understanding of Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is a complex issue that goes beyond the common heterosexual understanding. Heterosexual approaches and assumptions of sexual violence can further marginalize members of the LGBTQ2S+ community unintentionally invalidating, discrediting, and ignoring their experiences. Many abusive behaviours are common across all relationships regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, but the unique circumstances and prejudices against the LGBTQ2S+ contribute to specific needs and additional barriers to accessing relevant supports and services.

There are extensive gaps in research regarding the unique barriers faced by the LGBTQ2S+ community. Without a more comprehensive understanding of how sexual violence impacts the queer community and the complexities influencing reporting rates, it is incredibly difficult to understand the magnitude and prevalence of the issue. In our recent research report, Sexual Assault in Saskatchewan, we aimed to examine this issue in our province and serve as a jumping off point for future research. 

THE ISSUE 

According to national research on reporting, gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals are six times more likely to experience sexual violence than people who are heterosexual. LGBTQ2S+ individuals experience unique circumstances that create additional harm and prevent access to supports and services in addition to the barriers faced by heterosexual and cis-gender individuals.  

LGBTQ2S+ individuals experience homelessness or transience at a much higher rate making them more vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation by others. In Saskatchewan, queer and transgender youth lack safe community spaces, and the few that do exist become more difficult to access if the individual is homeless. Stigmatization, and a lack of non-binary services, results in individuals feeling excluded from supports and programs targeted towards only men or women; this is especially true in rural areas of Saskatchewan where services are limited or non-existent. A lack of inclusive services creates barriers for LGBTQS2+ individuals when seeking the help and support they need after experiencing sexual violence. 

Other research has found that perpetrators will often threaten to reveal the survivor’s sexual or gender identity to others if they report the assault to the authorities. In other instances, the survivor may not report because doing so would force them to reveal their  sexual and/or gender identity to the police and, should the case move forward, the public.

Many services operate under heterosexual assumptions that can prevent same-sex partner violence from being fully investigated and identified. For example, men admitted to the hospital with physical injuries are less likely to be questioned about potential abuse than women, influencing the likelihood of necessary intervention.

Although many organizations provide inclusive supports and services, there is a lack of understanding and awareness surrounding the importance of using inclusive language when communicating their services to the public. The absence of inclusive language in communications and marketing isolates these individuals as they feel excluded from these services. The use of inclusive language provides a clear indication for these individuals that they will be treated with respect, their experiences will be believed, and their needs will be understood and addressed appropriately. 

Although society has progressed significantly in our acceptance of the LGBTQ2S+ community, these individuals still experience social and societal exclusion. Therefore, when they experience sexual violence, a crime where victim blaming and shaming is so prominent by society and the justice system, their very identity can be unfairly used as a reason not to believe them, and to not take them seriously. 

With a few important considerations, support services and criminal justice institutions can contribute to a necessary shift in social attitudes towards the LGBTQ2S+ community. Together, we can work towards a collaborative, comprehensive, and inclusive approach to responding to and preventing sexual violence. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

There is a clearly demonstrated need for the development of more culturally competent services across all sectors responding to sexual violence. Here are some ways that organizations can guide the development and implementation of inclusive programs and services:

  • Consider the following questions to ensure the provision of a safe, inclusive space for LGBTQ2S+ survivors:
    • When we currently talk about sexual violence, who benefits from the conversation? What are the consequences of this, both intentional and unintentional?
    • What is the individual context, demographic location, and social context of the person telling their story?
    • How can we move our work outside of the gender binary system?
    • What would a framework of intersectionality bring to those impacted by the work that we do?
  • Create programming especially for LGBTQ2S+ individuals, focusing on their specific needs and circumstances.
  • Have staff participate in educational workshops to expand their understanding of LGBTQ2S+ terminology and experiences. Many LGBTQ2S+ organizations offer resources, information, and workshops. 
  • Create policies and guidelines for addressing discrimination in your organization, and ensure that non-heterosexist, inclusive language is in place in communications and marketing campaigns to let individuals know that they are a safe, welcoming space for LGBTQ2S+ identifying people to receive support services.
  • Seek out and establish partnerships with LGBTQ2S+ organizations to create resources programs, and referral networks that connect the LGBTQ2S+ community with relevant services, and resources.
  • Consider the need to provide advocacy and establish culturally competent contacts, including police, lawyers, and other advisory experts in order to prepare those within the LGBTQ2S+ community for potential systemic barriers they may face in the process of healing and seeking justice. 

The power to initiate change exists not only within larger institutions, but within all of us as individuals part of a greater community. Here are a few simple ways you can be an ally and advocate for change within your community: 

  • Familiarize yourself with LGBTQ2S+ terminology. Out Saskatoon’s Queer Terms page is a good place to start
  • Educate yourself on LGBTQ2S+ experiences and history to understand the impacts oppression and anti-LGBTQ2S+ can have on sexual violence
  • Be an advocate. Raise your voice and your platform for the LGBTQ2S+ movement and fight for equality. This could be educating friends, family members, and strangers, or volunteering with an organization that is pushing for change

For more information about this topic, read the sources of our information:

Sexual Violence in Saskatchewan: Voices, Stories, Insights, and Actions from the Front Lines

Relationship Violence in Lesbian/Gay/ Bisexual/Transgender/Queer [LGBTQ] Communities Moving Beyond a Gender-Based Framework 

Anti-Racism Resource Guide

As an organization that advocates for the issue of sexual violence, we recognize the role institutions and societies play in acts of violence and the importance of intersectionality when analyzing these acts.

This resource guide is a starting point for educating yourself and others on the way racism impacts our societies, communities, and families while being the root cause of violence against racial minorities around the world.

If you are feeling triggered by the recent devastation in the news, we have included mental health and support resources to help you in this time. If you want to become an ally this is a great place to start. 

This document will continue to be updated as new resources are discovered or created.

PETITIONS

FIND SUPPORT

  • Basic and Immediate Sexual Violence Resources for Somali Canadians: Crisis intervention, mental health resources, basic needs and legal resources.
  • Black Youth Helpline Toll Free: 1-833-294-8659
  • Online Therapy Unit: offers adults free Online Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for a number of mental health concerns. Online Cognitive Behaviour Therapy involves reviewing educational material online with the support of a therapist or a guide. The approach is found to be effective and is a convenient way to receive care.
  • Afircan Canadian Resource Network: ACRN is an action-oriented, resource organization dedicated to supporting the capacity development of the African-Canadian Community in Saskatchewan in strategic areas such as public and business leadership.

BE AN ALLY

LEARN:

Anti-Racist Resource Guide by Victoria Alexander MEd

Anti-Racism for Beginners and White People

75 Things White People Can do for Racial Justice

Robyn Maynard’s Black Lives Matter Syllabus: a collection of educational resources for self-education.

5 Black Women Talk About Their Lives In Canada–Past, Present And Future

Q&A: Author Robyn Maynard on Anti-Black Racism, Misogyny, and Policing in Canada

Books:

  • How to be Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi
    •  In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their poisonous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.
  • Black Feminist Thoughts by Patricial Hill Collins
    • In Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins explores the words and ideas of Black feminist intellectuals as well as those African-American women outside academe. She provides an interpretive framework for the work of such prominent Black feminist thinkers as Angela Davis, bell hooks, Alice Walker, and Audre Lorde. The result is a superbly crafted book that provides the first synthetic overview of Black feminist thought.
  • Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
    • Based on the viral Instagram challenge that captivated participants worldwide, Me and White Supremacy takes readers on a 28-day journey, complete with journal prompts, to do the necessary and vital work that can ultimately lead to improving race relations.
  • White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard For White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DeAngelo
    • In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine).
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colourblindness by Michelle Alexander
    • The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.
  • White Rage: The Unspoken Truth Of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
    • Anderson pulls back the veil that has long covered actions made in the name of protecting democracy, fiscal responsibility, or protection against fraud, rendering visible the long lineage of white rage. Compelling and dramatic in the unimpeachable history it relates, White Rage will add an important new dimension to the national conversation about race in America.
  • The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole
    • Month-by-month, Cole creates a comprehensive picture of entrenched, systemic inequality. Urgent, controversial, and unsparingly honest, The Skin We’re In is destined to become a vital text for anti-racist and social justice movements in Canada, as well as a potent antidote to the all-too-present complacency of many white Canadians.
  • Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present by Robyn Maynard 
    • Delving behind Canada’s veneer of multiculturalism and tolerance, Policing Black Lives traces the violent realities of anti-blackness from the slave ships to prisons, classrooms, and beyond. Robyn Maynard provides listeners with the first comprehensive account of nearly 400 years of state-sanctioned surveillance, criminalization, and punishment of black lives in Canada.
  • 21 Things You Didn’t Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph
    • Based on a viral article, 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act is the essential guide to understanding the legal document and its repercussion on generations of Indigenous peoples, written by a leading cultural sensitivity trainer.
  • Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga 
    • Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, award-winning investigative journalist Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this small northern city that has come to manifest Canada’s long struggle with human rights violations against Indigenous communities.
  • The Inconvenient Indian: A curious Account of Native People in North America byThomas King 
    • The Inconvenient Indian is at once a “history” and the complete subversion of a history—in short, a critical and personal meditation that the remarkable Thomas King has conducted over the past 50 years about what it means to be “Indian” in North America.
  • In My Own Moccasins by Helen Knott
    • In My Own Moccasins is an unflinching account of addiction, intergenerational trauma, and the wounds brought on by sexual violence. It is also the story of sisterhood, the power of ceremony, the love of family, and the possibility of redemption. With gripping moments of withdrawal, times of spiritual awareness, and historical insights going back to the signing of Treaty 8 by her great-great grandfather, Chief Bigfoot, her journey exposes the legacy of colonialism, while reclaiming her spirit.
  • Toss Under Midnight Sun by Paul Seesequasis
    • A revelatory portrait of eight Indigenous communities from across North America, shown through never-before-published archival photographs.
  • 31 Children’s books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance

LISTEN:

Podcasts:

  • Culture Clinic by Saskatoon Open Door Society
    • Listen to hosts Anita Ogurlu and Michael Afenfia share stories that will inspire, teach and strengthen the bonds of friendship between newcomers and Canadians.
  • Colour Code by The Globe and Mail
    • If there’s one thing Canadians avoid, it’s talking about race. This podcast is here to change that. Join hosts  Denise Balkissoon and Hannah Sung for a new conversation on race in Canada. We won’t have all the answers but we do ask bold questions.
  • 1619 by The New York Times
    • In August of 1619, a ship carrying more than 20 enslaved Africans arrived in the English Colony of Virgina. America was not yet America, but this was the moment it began. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the 250 years of slavery that followed. On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is time to tell the story.
  • About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge
    • From the author behind the bestselling Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race comes a podcast that takes the conversation a step further. Featuring key voices from the last few decades of anti-race activism, About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge looks at the recent history that lead to the politics of today.
  • Code Switch by NPR
    • What’s CODE SWITCH? It’s the fearless conversations about race that you’ve been waiting for! Hosted by journalists of color, our podcast tackles the subject of race head-on. We explore how it impacts every part of society – from politics and pop culture to history, sports, and everything in between. This podcast makes ALL OF US part of the conversation – because we’re all part of the story.
  • Intersectionality Matters! Hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw
    • Intersectionality Matters! Is a podcast hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw, An American civil rights advocate and a leading scholar of critical race theory.
  • Scene on Radio (Season 2: Seeing White)
    • Just what is going on with white people? Police shootings of unarmed African Americans. Acts of domestic terrorism by white supremacists. The renewed embrace of raw, undisguised white-identity politics. Unending racial inequity in schools, housing, criminal justice, and hiring. Some of this feels new, but in truth it’s an old story. Why? Where did the notion of “whiteness” come from? What does it mean? What is whiteness for? Scene on Radio host and producer John Biewen took a deep dive into these questions, along with an array of leading scholars and regular guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, in this fourteen-part documentary series, released between February and August 2017. The series editor is Loretta Williams.
  • Coffee With My Ma (Host Kaniehtiio Horn)
    • My radical activist mother Kahentinetha Horn tells me stories of her very long adventurous life, always with the sense of humour that carried herthrough.
  • Missing and Murdered (CBC)
    • Sparked by a chilling tip, season one is an eight-part podcast investigation that unearths new information and potential suspects in the cold case of a young Indigenous woman murdered in British Columbia in 1989. 
  • Secret Life of Canada (Co-hosts Falen Johnson and Leah Simone Bowen)
    • The Secret Life of Canada is a history Podcast about the country you know and the stories you don’t.
  • Red Man Laughing season 5 (Created, written, and hosted by Anishinaabe comedian Ryan McMahon)
    • An entire season dedicated to conversations, explorations, and investigations into reconciliation.
  • The Truth Sharing Podcasts (Eagle Vision)
    • The Truth Sharing Podcasts is a project inspired by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, that gives life to the truth and creates a living legacy of commemoration. This series of podcasts visited five Canadian communities to seek out and give voice to those who have experienced loss, examine the ways in which those affected are trying to heal, and shine a light on those trying to bring about positive change.⁣⁣

WATCH:

National Film Board of Canada

  • A series of videos and documentaries on anti-racism

ACT:

Ways You Can Help:

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

  • Includes who to donate too, petitions to sign, and link to #BlackLivesMatterCanada

Donate:

  • George Floyd Memorial Fund
    • This fund is established to cover funeral and burial expenses, mental and grief counseling, lodging and travel for all court proceedings, and to assist our family in the days to come as we continue to seek justice for George.  A portion of these funds will also go to the Estate of George Floyd for the benefit and care of his children and their educational fund.
  • Minnesota Freedom Fund
    • The Minnesota Freedom Fund pays criminal bail and immigration bond for those who cannot afford to as we seek to end discriminatory, coercive, and oppressive jailing.
  • Federation of Black Canadians
    • The Federation of Black Canadians advances the social, economic, political and cultural interests of Canadians of African descent.
  • Black Women in Motion
    • Black Women in Motion is a Toronto-based, youth-led organization that empowers and supports the advancement of black womxn and survivors of sexual violence.
  • Black Health Alliance
    • The Black Health Alliance is a community-led registered charity working to improve the health and well-being of Black communities in Canada.
  • Black Visions Collective
    • Black Visions Collective envisions a world in which ALL Black Lives Matter. We use the guidance and brilliance of our ancestors as well as the teachings of our own experiences to pursue our commitment to dismantling systems of oppression and violence. We are determined in our pursuit of dignity and equity for all. 
  • Campaign Zero
    • Funds donated to Campaign Zero support the analysis of policing practices across the country, research to identify effective solutions to end police violence, technical assistance to organizers leading police accountability campaigns and the development of model legislation and advocacy to end police violence nationwide. 
  • Unicorn Riot
    • Unicorn Riot is a decentralized, educational 501(c)(3) non-profit media organization of artists and journalists. Our work is dedicated to exposing root causes of dynamic social and environmental issues through amplifying stories and exploring sustainable alternatives in today’s globalized world.
  • Know Your Rights Camp
    • Their mission is to advance the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders.

 

How to Respond to A Sexual Assault Disclosure

A sexual violence disclosure is when a person tells another person about an incident of sexual abuse or assault. The disclosure may be of a recent incident, it may have occurred in the past (historical), or it may be ongoing. A survivor’s choice to disclose should be treated as distinct from making a report to formal authorities, even if sometimes they are one and the same event.

When the disclosures are minimized, dismissed or the survivors were blamed and shamed for the assault, this negatively impacts the survivors’ ability to move forward with their healing journey. In cases of children and youth, a dismissed disclosure can lead to further revictimization when children are not removed from unsafe environments.

Based on our research, the vast majority (71.1%) of primary survivors told someone about their assault. The majority of these disclosures were made to friends (79.3%) and family members (57.7%), followed by counsellors (school counsellors, mental health counsellors, etc.) at 45.7%.

We found that more than one-third (37.6%) of these disclosures happened within one to three days following the assault. Another 34.5% told within the space of one year and unfortunately, another 27.9% of survivors would take more than two years before disclosing the assault to anyone.

This means that survivors who feel as though they don’t have someone to disclose to within one to three days following the assault, will go on to suffer in silence for months and  years without disclosing their experience to anyone.

Our hope is that, by providing you with some crucial conversation tips, you can be equipped to respond appropriately should someone in your life disclose a sexual assault to you.


How To Support A Minor Disclosing Abuse

  • Do not question the story unless you truly do not understand what the child said
  • Do not judge the child, their feelings, or behaviours
  • Let the child set the emotional tone and pace
  • Only collect enough information to lead you to believe the abuse has occurred and ensure that your report to law enforcement or Ministry of Social Services is verbatim as possible.
  • Assess the child’s safety and if where the person who assaulted them has access to the child in the near future.
  • Report your concerns immediately to the Ministry of Social Services Child Protection Unit or your local law enforcement agency

It’s important to let the child know you are glad they trusted you enough to share and that you need to tell someone who can help to keep them safe.

Remember that everyone in Saskatchewan has a duty to report a suspicion or knowledge of child sexual abuse to the Ministry of Social Services or to the police.

How To Support An Adult Disclosing Assault

  • Let the individual who has been assaulted set the emotional tone and pace of the discussion
  • Let the individual know that they can express how they feel openly
  • Reassure the individual that they are not alone
  • Assist the individuals with any major concerns or need that may need to be addressed
  • Don’t ask the individual why they did not disclose sooner

As family and friends, it can be difficult to hear the painful disclosure of a loved one and we often do not know what to do and what to say. The person who has committed the assaulted may be a person that you know, care about, or respect in the community. It is important to understand that what matters most is the survivor feels heard, believed, supported, and that he/she/they has done the right thing by telling you.

Here are three crucial conversation tips that will help you respond appropriately to a sexual assault disclosure:

Listen To Receive

Often times, when we are in conversation with someone, we feel the need to respond immediately to what the other person is sharing with us, especially if the person we are talking to is expressing a personal matter.

When someone discloses a sexual assault to you, they want their story to be heard by someone they trust. The best way you can ensure that they feel heard is to listen to receive, and not to respond.

Give the other person space to share what happened and express their emotions. By being witness to what they’re going through without responding immediately, will help the other person feel more comfortable disclosing to you.

Show You Care Through Your Body Language

A person who has been assaulted has experienced a violation of their physical autonomy. It is therefore important to take direction from the person as to what their needs may be around physical contact and space. Below are some ideas on how you can use your eyes contact, physical space and voice in making the other person feel heard, safe and supported.

Be aware of the physical space between you and the person who is disclosing. Look for indications that they may feel uncomfortable with the space between you such as moving their body away, not looking at you, looking at the door often, etc. Check in if it appears they are uncomfortable and adjust the space accordingly.

Be aware of touch and do not assume the person wants a comforting touch such as a hug or a touch to their arm, hand etc. as this could trigger a trauma response in the person who has been assaulted or abused. If you believe a comforting touch may be helpful, if appropriate, you can let them know that they can ask for that from you.

Look at the individual; however, if direct eye contact appears to make the individual uncomfortable, look in their general direction and do not search or probe for eye contact.

Be aware of your voice. Your tone of voice may convey a sense of calm and safety or stress and panic, depending on how you are feeling about the disclosure. If you are feeling emotional about the disclosure, a genuine acknowledgement of the emotion without making the disclosure about “you” may help you to focus and the other person to understand your response to them.

If it helps to stay focused, take a few notes, however unless you are in a role of an investigator keep notes to a minimum and focus on the person telling his/her/their story.

Ask Questions That Are Helpful Not Hurtful

During difficult conversations, it can be hard to find the right words to say, and sometimes we don’t say much at all for the fear that what we say isn’t the right thing. This is part of being human and it’s okay if we don’t know what to say.

What we can do, is ensure that we don’t say anything that could be hurtful to the person disclosing to us. It’s important to avoid asking “why” questions like – “why did you go there?” or “why didn’t you call for help?”. You have to remember that what the person has experienced is traumatic and the last thing we want them to think is that they should have done something differently or that it was somehow their fault. Consider using helpful phrases like:

I believe you

It is not your fault

Thank you for telling me

I am sorry this happened to you

You are not alone

You are brave to speaking out

I hear you

I am here to help you to the best of my ability

It’s okay to have mixed feeling about the person who hurt you and to not want to get into trouble

I am going to try to get you some help with this

Lastly, the most important thing you can do is help the survivor take actionable steps towards their healing journey. Here is a list of support services available to you:

911

Dial 911 if someone you know is in immediate danger or at risk of assault

811 HEALTHLINE

Dialing 811, to receive a 24-hour health and mental health and addictions advice, education and support telephone line.

211 SASKATCHEWAN

Dialing 211 will connect you with a free, confidential, 24/7, multilingual service that can direct you to human services in the province, including services for people experiencing violence and abuse. The 211 website also offers web chat services or you can text “Hello” to 211 to access service.  Resources are listed on their website.

http://abuse.sk.211.ca/

REPORTING CHILD ABUSE

Anyone having reasonable suspicion that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been or may be impacted by abuse or neglect has a legal duty to report that suspicion. 

Ministry of Social Services Child Protection Lines:

Regina (South): 1-844-787-3760

Prince Albert (North): 1-866-719-6164

Saskatoon (Center): 1800-274-8297

https://www.saskatchewan.ca/residents/justice-crime-and-the-law/child-protection/child-abuse-and-neglect

KIDS HELP PHONE

24-hour hotline for young people. Services include counselling, information and referrals.

Toll-Free: 1-800-668-6868

Text CONNECT to 686868 at any time to talk to a crisis responder. You do not need a data plan, internet connection or app to access this service.

www.kidshelpphone.ca

Reference:

Williams, T., Tocher, A., Ofrim, j., & Walroth, K. (2011). First Responder to Sexual Assault and Abuse Training, Participant Handbook. Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services.

The Current State of Sexual Violence in Saskatchewan

Sexual Violence in Saskatchewan: Who’s being assaulted?

In 2017, we partnered with the Community-Institute for Social Research at the University of Saskatchewan to conduct a comprehensive study of sexual violence in Saskatchewan.

Our research project examined instances of sexual assault among individuals in Saskatchewan, the context surrounding these assaults, the services used by sexual assault survivors, and their satisfaction with these services. The surveys examined sexual assault experiences from the perspective of survivors, their relatives, and service providers.

Below is a summary of our findings regarding who is experiencing sexual violence in Saskatchewan:

  • Women represented the majority of victims of sexual violence at 88.35%. Of all their sexual assault experiences, more than half (53.9%) occurred when primary survivors were between the ages of 13 and 24 years.
  • Children and youth survivors (under 18 years old) reported being assaulted most often by someone they knew such as a family member (34.4%), an acquaintance (24%), and a friend (23.2%). These assaults happened most frequently in their homes and schools.
  • Adult survivors reported being assaulted most often by strangers (26.6%), acquaintances (21.8%), and intimate partners (20.5%). More than half (66%) of primary survivors reported being sexually assaulted multiple times as adults.

 

Where do survivors of sexual violence in Saskatchewan go to seek help?

Based on our research findings, survivors of sexual violence seek help in three ways:

 

  • Disclosure of sexual assault experiences. The vast majority (71.1%) of primary told someone about their assault. The majority of these disclosures were made to friends (79.3%) and family members (57.7%) followed by counsellors at 45.7%.
  • Fewer than 1/3 of primary survivors (23.7%) made a formal report to municipal police or to the RCM. Survivors shared multiple reasons for not choosing to report formally including fear of not being believed, being blamed for the assault, shame or embarrassment, fear of retaliation from perpetrator, etc.
  • Almost half (49%) of primary survivors accessed at least one form of services and supports in relation to a sexual assault incident. The most commonly used services by primary services were Mental Health/Counseling (67.5%), Sexual Assault Centre/Counsellor (44.7%), Family Member (40.8%), Victim Services (28.2%), Police (27.2%), Medical Doctor/Nurse (24.8%), Teacher/School Counsellor (16%), and Hospital/Health Centre (14.1%).