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Anova and Disclosures of Sexual Violence

Trigger warning for discussion of sexual violence

Anova, the product of a merger between London’s Women’s Community House and Sexual Assault Centre London, recently released a podcast episode about responding to sexual violence disclosures. We wanted to further spread awareness and guidance on this important topic by summarizing it in a blog. 

Hosted by Dr. AnnaLise Trudell, this episode of the podcast features Allison Preyde, Anova’s public education coordinator. Preyde defines a disclosure as “someone telling someone else about something that has happened to them. In our context… an incident of sexual violence.” She then defines sexual violence as “any kind of sexual behaviour that happens without consent,” and explains that it’s a lot broader than just sexual assault. 

The two continue by highlighting a key take away regarding sexual violence disclosures: trauma is isolating and connection is healing, and this is why most people disclose as a means of connection. Oftentimes, Dr. Trudell states: “they’re not reaching out for you to solve a problem, they’re not reaching out for logic to analyze, they’re reaching out to not feel alone in it.”

They provide some context on the neuroscience of trauma and also discuss some of the ways that disclosures can go wrong, such as playing devil’s advocate or looking for a silver lining. In an effort to keep this blog short, we won’t go into detail but encourage you to listen to the Anova Podcast.

Preyde later goes on to walk listeners through a three-step response to disclosures which we will outline below:

1. Be Trauma-Informed - have a baseline understanding of trauma, what it can look like and how it can show up.

2. Validate - validate their emotional experience (even when it doesn’t show up the way you think it would). Some provided examples of validating things to say:

  • “Thank you for sharing that with me”
  • “I believe you”
  • “I’m sorry that happened to you.”
  • “You didn’t deserve that.”
  • “It wasn’t your fault.”
  • “What can I do to help you right now?”

3. Empower - empower them to make the choices that work for them and recognize that they are the experts of their own experiences.

  • It can be helpful to know some available support services, but don’t assume what the survivor needs

If you’re interested in learning more, Anova also provides disclosure training and you can inquire about this by emailing education@anovafuture.org

This can be a heavy topic, especially if it’s something you have personal experience with. Please reach out for support if you need it after reading or hearing about this topic, and try to practice some form of self-care. 

Anova Crisis and Support Line: 519-642-3000

Reach Out Mental Health and Crisis Support Line: 519-433-2023

More on mindyourmindSelf Care While Helping a Friend 

Photo by Emma Richards 

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