How to Become a First Responder to Sexual Assault and Abuse

According to Statistics Canada, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

While survivors of sexual assault are disproportionately women, the reality is that sexual assault can happen to any person, any age, no matter their gender or ethnicity. Sexual assault happens every day and most frequently in homes of friends, families and co-workers.

85% of survivors are assaulted by someone they know.

Because of the relational and personal nature of this crime, survivors often live in silence and shame. Dominant societal myths about sexual assault reinforce the misconceptions that survivors are responsible for the crimes that have been committed against them. This further contributes to very low reporting rates to law enforcement, and results in survivors not reaching out for medical or counselling assistance.

Survivors who receive safe and supportive responses to disclosures of sexual violence are more likely to reach out to medical and counselling services or report to police.

With the support from the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS) and our funder, the Ministry of Justice, we have implemented the First Responder to Sexual Assault and Abuse Training™ in Saskatchewan.

The First Responder to Sexual Assault and Abuse Training™ is a two-day course designed to educate individuals about the social, cultural and legal aspects of sexual assault and abuse, which will enable them to recognize, define and respond appropriately to the continuum of behaviours that constitute sexual assault and abuse.

The First Responder to Sexual Assault and Abuse Training™ benefits professionals, paraprofessionals, and community members who are interested in increasing their knowledge and skills to address disclosures of sexual violence.

The training is designed to aid those who work with individuals who have, or are at risk of, experiencing sexual violence. This includes, but is not limited to, those working in the fields of Physical and Mental Health, Justice, Social Work, and Education.

Individuals who have been trained in Saskatchewan include: Elders and Religious Leaders, University Students, Crisis Workers, Teachers, Nurses, Police and RCMP, Army Support Workers, Tribal Councils and Family Court Mediators.

Through the First Responder to Sexual Assault and Abuse Training™, our goal is to build capacity for professionals, volunteers, and community members throughout Saskatchewan to assess and respond effectively to disclosures of sexual assault and abuse. This should help ensure that those who have experienced sexual violence reach out for the help they need, and that they are provided with resources and empathy after disclosing.

If you’re interested in learning more about The First Responder to Sexual Assault and Abuse Training™ and where to register for training in Saskatchewan, click here.

Resource References

Statistic Canada 2013 Report:, Association of Albert Sexual Assault Services:

What is Sexual Violence?

What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence is a wide-ranging term that encompasses actions or expressions that are sexual in nature and targets a person’s sexuality, gender identity, or expression.

Sexual violence crimes include unwanted sexual contact, attempts to obtain a sexual act, non-consensual sexual activity, unwanted sexual comments or advances and non-contact sexual experiences that happen without freely and enthusiastically given consent.

The act of committing a sexual violence crime is not about sex itself, but rather of control and power. The person who commits the sexual assault is always 100% responsible for the act of violence

Here is a glossary of key terms that will help you gain a better understanding for the language surrounding sexual violence:

Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault refers to any act of a sexual nature carried out in circumstances in which an individual has not freely agreed or consented. Sexual assault includes unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature from unwanted kissing and touching to forced sexual intercourse and/or oral sex.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment is any unwanted sexual communication or attention that is offensive, intimidating or humiliating, whether in verbal, written or visual form. This may include psychological violence, verbal abuse, manipulation and coercion.

Gender-based Violence (GBV)

Gender-based violence (GBV) involves the use and abuse of power and control over another person and is perpetrated against someone based on their gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender.  Violence against women and girls is one form of GBV.  It also has a disproportionate impacts on LGBTQ2 (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trangender, queer, questioning, intersex and two-spirit) and gender-non-conforming people.  GBV includes emotional and pscyhological violence, such as intentional misgendering, intentional “outing”, and use of gendered slurs, as well as physical, sexual, and structural or systemic violence. 

Interpersonal Violence

Interpersonal Violence can also be referred to as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and Domestic Violence, it is the abuse of power and control within a past or current relationship that endangers the well-being, security or survival of another person. Interpersonal Violence can occur in all types of relationships (e.g., dating, long-term, common-law, marriage, etc.). It can also occur between roommates and close friends.

IPV commonly starts off as emotional and/or verbal aggression or abuse, and can occasionally lead to acts of physical violence. An abusive partner will use different forms of violence to maintain control in their relationship or a sense of power over their partner.

Sexual Consent

Sexual Consent is to voluntary agree, free from coercion, to engage in sexual activity. Consent must be given whenever a sexual activity is proposed. When a person consents to a sexual activity, that consent will not automatically carry over to future sexual practices. Consent to one act does not mean agreeing to all sexual acts. Consent can be withdrawn at any time. A person is not capable of consenting to sexual activity when that person is incapacitated by alcohol or drugs, is unconscious, or where a person abuses a relationship of trust, power, or authority (e.g. between a professor and their student).


A tactic used to intimidate, trick or force someone to have sex without resorting to physical force. Some examples of coercion are:

  • Constantly putting pressure on someone and refusing to take no for an answer.
  • Implying sex is owed in return for financial favors, such as buying dinner, drinks or gifts.
  • Making someone feel guilty for not engaging in sex (“if you loved me you would…”).
  • Continually buying alcohol to inebriate the other person(s).
  • Being emotionally manipulative (“I can’t live without you…”).


Disclosure is the act of making new information known for the purpose of seeking support and/or information to a friend, family member, medical professional, or mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.


Reporting is the act of informing someone in authority of an incident for the purpose of initiating an investigative process.


Survivor/Victim are terms used to refer to a person who was sexually assaulted. In the 70’s and 80’s, advocates and activists in North America who worked to support those who have been sexually assaulted encouraged moving away from the term “victim” to the term “survivor”. Now most commonly used in North-America, the term “survivor” generally focuses on agency and resilience whereas “victim” refers to the person being victimized by someone else and focuses on elements outside of a person’s control.

Victim Blaming

Victim Blaming is the act of blaming the occurrence of sexual assault on the survivor instead of the person who committed the sexual assault.

To learn more about language surrounding Sexual Violence, read the full glossary of terms here: