Bystander Intervention Skills


You can interrupt sketchy behaviour at a bar, concert, or a party to prevent
sexual violence.

These skills are new for lots of folks! Just like first aid, these strategies require learning, relearning, and practice.

SACHA has got your back! If you see something sketchy and you unsure how to take action, you can call SACHA’s 24 Hour Support Line to chat about ideas and options – 905.525.4162.

The number one action you can take RIGHT NOW is:

Bystander Intervention Skills


Don’t go it alone. Gather your peeps. Who is near that can help?A friend? Security staff? Even if it’s just to validate that the behaviour is not OK.

  • “I think she needs our help, but I don’t know what to do. Have any ideas?”
  • “Will you watch while I go chat with them?”


Approach either the person being targeted or the person doing the harassing and be direct.

  • “Are you OK?”
  • “Can I help you?”
  • “That’s not OK.”
  • “You need to stop.”


Think of a way to distract the folks involved in the situation: either the person being targeted or the person doing the harassing.

  • “Can you take a pic of my friends and I?”
  • “What time is it?”
  • “Where’s the washrooms?”
  • “That’s a FAB outfit! Where did you get it?”
  • “My friend’s gone missing. Can you help me find them?”


Make a record or keep your eye on the situation in case it escalates.

Bystander Intervention by SACHA



McMaster Welcome Week Training

In the last eight days, SACHA and Equity and Inclusion Office at McMaster University trained nearly 400 Residence Life staff and reps on taking action to end rape culture and nearly 1300 Welcome Week Faculty reps on McMaster’s Sexual Violence Response Protocol.
We hope that this week is a kick off to year-round action to prevent sexual violence on campus.
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In the hour long workshop with staff and reps from Residence Life we talked about:


Continue reading

SACHA Supports Mandi Gray


In July of 2016, in an unprecedented ruling, Mustafa Ururyar was found guilty of the sexual assault of Mandi Gray.

In a public statement at that time, Gray remarked upon the grueling 18-month endeavour, and her experience of the criminal justice system — which allowed for the introduction of rape mythology and victim-blaming from Uryurar’s defence lawyer, Lisa Bristow.

“I am tired of people talking to me like I won some sort of rape lottery because the legal system did what it is supposed to…If we are told to be grateful for receiving the bare minimum, and that we should simply allow for social institutions to further…violate our rights, I am incredibly concerned”.  

SACHA shares this deep concern. We are also incensed that within days of the conviction, Ururyar’s defence team appealed the conviction and asked for bail. This was granted by Superior Court Justice Michael Quigley, who, despite the extensive case law cited in Ontario Court Justice Marvin Zuker’s decision, suggested that academic texts on rape and trauma may have somehow informed an impartial ruling. Continue reading

Ghomeshi Trial: SACHA Responds


In 2014, when allegations of violence against women were first brought against Jian Ghomeshi, many responded with disbelief: he “sounded plausible and open,”[1] Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente admitted in her 2014 column on Ghomeshi; and as one court observer described her interest in the case in February, “All of a sudden, he was off the air and I couldn’t believe it”[2].

But as disclosures about Ghomeshi from women piled up[3], a different reflection began. It sparked important conversations in the public about the prevalence of unreported sexual assault in Canada. It also questioned the inadequacy of the criminal justice system in cases of sexual violence, and the many reasons why survivor-victims do not report —or in many cases, tell anyone at all. Survivors of sexual violence spoke out about the enormous barriers that survivor-victims face.  Advocates, including those of us at SACHA talked about how systems meant to support victims too-often disbelieved or blamed them, while offenders –and oftentimes, the violent incident itself – went unchallenged. At that time, SACHA predicted that a guilty verdict in the Ghomeshi charges would be extremely unlikely given the limits of the system, the historical nature of the cases, general misconceptions and expectations on how victims “ought to” respond to sexual violence, and the relationships that the complainants had with the accused.

Today, SACHA is not in any way surprised by the verdict of acquittal in this case.

Further, we do not see this verdict as an indication of “truth-finding” in what happened between the complainants and accused, and we urge others to pause on this reflection.

On the contrary we see, once again, the criminal justice system’s tendency to:

  • Direct all questioning to the complainant, including questioning her actions before and after the violent incident. Having a social, physical, romantic, financial or other relationship with a person does not negate or reduce the possibility of violence within that relationship. If anything, a relationship is more likely to silence victims into compliance or self-doubt.
  • Invisibilize the accused’s side of the story entirely, giving the impression that he maintained a consistent narrative throughout − when in fact our system is structured so that he is never even asked to present one at all.
  • See that “cases are more likely to be prosecuted if the victim is White and less often when the victim belongs to a racial minority group”; and also more likely to be prosecuted when the accused is a person of colour[4].
  • Make invisible the victims’ acts of resistance in the midst of what they experienced. Every day, survivors of violence continue to interact with those that have harmed them. Realistic reasons include: not wanting to cause problems; being uncertain about whether the incident was in fact violence; hoping the relationship will improve; feeling responsible for improving the relationship; having an emotional attachment to the accused; wishing to maintain other relationships connected to the offender; or seeking explanation for the violent behavior.

SACHA wishes to note that the witnesses in this case did express resistance to their experiences with the accused: for example, they came forward and shared their stories upon hearing other similar allegations; they sought support and connection with other women who shared this experience; and they formally reported to the police in October 2014 when then-Police Chief Bill Blair urged women to do so. We recognize these significant actions as meaningful in the face of violence – even though this court case clearly did not do so – and commend all survivors for their own responses.

In response to the Ghomeshi verdict, SACHA also reaches out to those affected by sexual violence in Ontario. 

If something has happened to you, there are people who will believe and support you.

You can talk to a trusted friend, family member, or contact our sexual assault centre support line.  If you are considering reporting, we can help you think through your options.  If you are not considering reporting, that’s okay too.  All calls are free and confidential.  We are here to listen 24 hours a day – 905.525.4162.

If you are a friend or family member of someone who is dealing with sexual violence, there are things you can do too.

You can be an ally to the person who is victimized, instead of the accused. You can listen to the person’s story without judgement, scrutiny or expectations that they formally report.  You can them to find safe places to seek additional support, if needed, too. You too can call SACHA’s Support Line – 905.525.4162.

SACHA recognizes the impact of sexual violence in our community.  We believe that education and information goes a long way toward the prevention of violence.  Together, we will make a difference.

[1] Wente, M. October 28, 2014. Ghomeshi-gate: a bad day for everyone – The Globe and Mail. Online:

[2] Toronto Star. February 1, 2016. Why they came to the Ghomeshi trial | Toronto Star. Online:

[3] Eight women in total informally shared their experiences with The Toronto Star (for a summary, see: ). Three chose to report to the police.

[4] Patterson, D. 2011. The Impact of Detectives’ Manner of Questioning on Rape Victims’ Disclosure. Violence Against Women, 17(11) 1349–1373: 1370.

Who’s on Trial?: Cross Examination in Sexual Assault Cases


by Maggie Rahr

A debate about ethical cross examination in sexual assault cases is escalating in Canada’s legal circles, and on social media, as the trial against Jian Ghomeshi unfolds. In a commentary published in the Star, criminal lawyer, Breese Davies attempts to de-bunk what she calls a ‘pernicious myth’, that “as a matter of strategy, (the defence will) bully, abuse or attack complainants during cross-examination.”

The woefully named ‘whacking’ is a colloquial term used to describe what Davies maintains is a problem that rarely arises in the courtroom.

But many, following one of the most high profile trials in recent Canadian history, tweet by tweet, and through more traditional news media, will disagree with her.

“I’m absolutely demoralized.” says Lenore Lukasik-Foss, Chair of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres. Statistics are so low, when it comes to sexual assault victims reporting to police (even fewer see an actual courtroom) that it’s a rarity Lukasik-Foss and her colleagues have to shepherd a victim through public legal appearances. Watching the Ghomeshi trial unfold, she says, it’s not hard to understand why so few victims come forward. Continue reading

Cookies and Consent Follow Ups


Last Thursday Erin Crickett, SACHA’s Public Educations Coordinator was on a Cookies and Consent panel as part of McMaster University’s Welcome Week.

Crickett mentioned some links, videos, articles, Young Adult fiction, during the panel and the break out session afterwards about taking action to end sexual violence, which she promised to post here:

no more rape culture

Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery, that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as “just the way things are.”

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  • SACHA’s infographic on how be involved in the movement to end gender based violence:

Men Taking Action Cropped

  • The Young Adult book Pointe by Brandi Colbert really shows how power plays a part of sexual violence and how many folks experience abuse are in love with their perpetrators and don’t label the relationship as abusive.

The more that I started talking about racism publicly, the more white people started reaching out to me for clarification; they’d say things like, I don’t want to seem racist, but I don’t know how or I was called racist and I don’t know what I did. I started to realize that these people reaching out to me to understand why someone was mad at them still pictured racists as white hooded men and they weren’t wearing hoods, so they thought themselves incapable of acting in a racist manner. I started to realize that my generation couldn’t redefine for everyone what a racist looks like; we have to define what racist actions are.

We have to let go of treating each other like not knowing, making mistakes, and saying the wrong thing make it impossible for us to ever do the right things.

And we have to remind ourselves that we once didn’t know. There are infinitely many more things we have yet to know and may never know.

We have to let go of a politic of disposability. We are what we’ve got. No one can be left to their fuck ups and the shame that comes with them because ultimately we’ll be leaving ourselves behind.

I want us to use love, compassion, and patience as tools for critical dialogue, fearless visioning, and transformation. I want us to use shared values and visions as proactive measures for securing our future freedom. I want us to be present and alive to see each other change in all of the intimate ways that we experience and enact violence.

If you’re like to invite SACHA to facilitate a workshop for your class, group, or workplace, contact Erin Crickett, SACHA’s Public Education Coordinator –

Highlights from Welcome Week Training


In one week SACHA trained over 1500 Welcome Week faculty reps, residence reps, as well as residence life staff Community Advisors. The forty minute training is an introduction to the statistics, Canadian law, rape myths, rape culture, and taking action.

For a longer recap, check out this storify.

We start out every workshop talking about about SACHA’s 24 Hour Support Line. Welcome Week reps can call the line if they have questions about supporting survivors, bystander intervention, and taking action to end rape culture.

We cover Canadian sexual assault law, what is sexual violence, and some quick statistics about sexual violence.

We ask folks what they look for in friends:

We confront some myths and lies that we’re taught about rape.

We talked about examples of rape culture in the media, at the bar, on the bus, and during Welcome Week:

Participants thought of ways that they can take action to end sexual violence every day.

Final thoughts:

Ending rape culture and creating a culture of consent takes more than one forty minute conversation. We’re excited to keep up the momentum and continue to have conversations throughout the year!

If you’d like to invite SACHA to lead a workshop with your group contact SACHA’s Public Education Coordinator, Erin Crickett –