1. Survivors are listening. When you talk/post/tweet about the Jian Ghomeshi trial and shame or blame the survivors, we are listening. We are judging if we can trust you with what we were subjected to. Think about what you say before you post. If people in your life say victim-blaming statements check in with them and share why these are damaging.
2. Be prepared. Throughout this trial and afterwards, people you care about might disclose that they are survivors of sexual violence be it harassment, assault or rape. Listen, believe, remind them it’s not their fault — that they have the right to be safe and they are not alone. You can share resources, such as Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, Assaulted Women’s Helpline, Fem’aide ( Francophone Assualted Women’s) and Support Services for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse.
3. Respect Boundaries. People may not want to talk about the trial or about sexual violence at all. It’s not survivors job to educate you on sexual violence myths or share information about what we were subjected to. Do your own homework on the issues. Some great resources to check out are Draw the Line, Con and Use The Right Words: Media Reporting on Sexual Violence.
4. Practice community care. Check in with people around you, follow their lead and ask what they need. Maybe it’s a Beyoncé dance party, dropping off a meal or sending pictures of cute animals. Don’t make assumptions, listen.
5. Honour the ways we survive and seek justice. There is no “right” way to survive sexual assault. A survivor can tell no one, tell themselves, call the police, tell a friend, heal on their own, with community, utilize transformative justice. We can feel okay some days, some months and other times we can feel different minute to minute. “Why didn’t you report?” is a loaded question that is commonly posed to survivors. It suggests that somehow if we don’t report it wasn’t serious or legitimate enough to do so. Reporting to the police is only one option, and for many survivors from marginalized, criminalized and policed communities it is not a real possibility. There are so many intersecting barriers that impact why only 1 in 10 sexual assaults in Canada are reported to the police.
Sending love, light and compassion to fellow survivors today. We deserve to be seen, heard and believed.
Farrah Khan is the Sexual Violence Support and Education Coordinator at Ryerson University. You can check out her work at farrahkhan.ca.