Rights of Victims of Sexual Assault
- You have the right to refuse sexual contact; no one is allowed to force unwanted sexual contact under any circumstances.
- You have the right to know that your sexual assault is a crime which has been committed against you.
- You have the right to be treated by persons who know that you are not to blame for your sexual assault.
- You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
- You have the right to privacy and confidentiality.
- You have the right to be treated for the physical effects of sexual assault without cost.
- You have the right to be given a full explanation of medical and treatment choices, of legal processes, and of the resources that are available to you.
- You have the right to fully participate in all decisions related to your care.
- You have the right to be fully supported in your decisions.
- You have the right to ask questions and to receive honest answers.
- If you are 18 or over, you have the right to decide if you want to report your sexual assault to police. (The law requires a sexual assault committed against anyone under 18 to be reported.)
- If you choose to report your sexual assault to police, you have the right to be examined by a competent forensic examiner.
- You have the right to receive information on care and treatment of any potential future physical and emotional health problems related to this event.
- You have the right to be informed of the status of the investigation by police and the progress of the case in courts.
If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted
You have experienced one of the most traumatic events possible. You may be experiencing shock and disbelief that you have been so horribly violated. You may be incredibly sad that this has happened or you may feel anger that one person could do this to another human being. You may also feel vulnerable and weak.
It is important to remember that, although reactions like anger, mistrust, and sadness are common, not all people experience the same emotions or express them in the same way. Because a person does not feel or act a certain way does not mean that their experience of sexual assault was not legitimate.
You may feel that too much information and your own emotions are overwhelming you and that you are unable to process all that is occurring. All of these reactions are normal following a sexual assault, but they are new to you. This can be frightening and bewildering.
We know that you may not remember much of what you are told by those people who truly want to help you through this difficult time. This booklet has been written to provide you with a written record of some of the things that you need to know now and the things that you can expect in the coming weeks and months.
Myth: Only "bad" people get sexually assaulted.
Fact: No other crime victim is looked upon with the same degree of suspicion and doubt as a victim of sexual assault. Although there are numerous reasons why society has cast blame on the victims of sexual assault, a major reason found in studies is that of a feeling of self-protection. If one believes that the victim was responsible because they put themselves in an unsafe position, such as being out late at night, drinking alcohol, dressing in a certain way, or "leading on" the offender, then we are able to feel safer because "we wouldn't do those things." But, the basic fact remains that no means no, no matter what the situation or circumstances.
Safety and Support
Following a sexual assault your first concern may be for your own safety. Once you are out of immediate danger you may want to call someone for support. This could be a friend or family member or a crisis line. The Where to go for Help section at the end of this booklet has information about people that can help. Seeking help during this traumatic time is vital. Telling someone what happened is a first step towards dealing with the sexual assault.
I'm not sure if I want to report the assault. Is it OK to bathe and change my clothes?
You may want to preserve evidence even if you are not sure you want to report the assault. By preserving evidence now you are ensuring that it will be there if you choose to report the assault to the police. Preserving evidence by doing things like not washing can be very difficult in the aftermath of a sexual assault but preserving evidence gives you the opportunity to make important decisions in less traumatic circumstances.
How do I preserve evidence?
You can preserve evidence at the scene by not cleaning or removing items at the scene.
You can preserve evidence on your body by...
- not washing, douching, changing your clothes, combing your hair or brushing your teeth
- not smoking, chewing gum, eating or drinking anything, including alcohol, drugs or medicines
- "dripping-dry" or patting lightly if you must use the washroom
It is also important to write down everything you can about the incident as soon as possible. If you decide to report the incident to police this record will be valuable for the investigation and could also be used as evidence in court. Even if you don't think you will report the assault to the police it is a good idea to do this if you can. Details may be harder to remember later and this way you will have a record that can be used if you decide to call the police.
If I am not physically injured do I still need to go to the hospital?
Yes. Even if you don't think you are injured medical attention is needed to help ensure there are no long-term physical consequences, such as pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, as a result of the assault.
If I don't want to report the assault should I still go to the hospital?
Yes. Medical attention is not just required to collect evidence. It is needed to treat any injuries and to provide preventative treatment if necessary.
When should I go to the hospital?
You can seek medical attention any time after the assault but there are good reasons to seek medical attention immediately. There are treatments that can help prevent things such as pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections but they are only effective if treatment is started soon after the assault.
These treatments can include...
- emergency contraceptives ("morning after pill")
- antibiotics to prevent infections
- medications to reduce your risk in case you were exposed to HIV
How long after an assault can medical evidence of the assault be collected?
You may have a sexual assault examination and collection of evidence up to 72-120 hours after an assault, depending on the local policy. However, the best opportunity for collecting usable evidence for the police is within the first 24 hours after a sexual assault.
Reporting to the Police
Do I have to report the assault to the police?
If you are 18 or over, you can decide whether to report the sexual assault to the police. If you do not wish to report to police, that is your right. If you are under 18, the assault must be reported to the police or a child protection worker.
Is there a time limit on when I can report the assault?
You can always report the assault at a later date. There is no statute of limitations on reporting a crime. A crime never ceases to be a crime. However, if you decide to call the police, the sooner you call the better. This gives the police a better chance of finding and preserving evidence and of catching the perpetrator of the assault.
Life After Sexual Assault
There is no "normal" reaction after you've been sexually assaulted. Every person reacts with a different combination of symptoms and at a different rate of time. Symptoms may be experienced in the short or long-term.
Just remember that what YOU feel is real and it's NOT your fault.
Myth: Unless someone is physically harmed, a person who has been sexually assaulted will not suffer any long-term effects.
Fact: Sexual assault can have serious effects on a person's health and well-being.
You may feel...
- a sense of worthlessness
Physically you may have...
- pain from an injury directly related to the assault
- abdominal or gastric upset
- pelvic pain
- muscle and/or joint pain
You may experience...
- poor concentration
- tensions and conflict with your partner or family
- eating disturbance
- change in sleep patterns
- sexual dysfunction
- isolation from friends/family
- flashbacks or intrusive thoughts
- mood swings
- loss of trust
- suicidal thoughts
These symptoms are referred to as "Rape Trauma Syndrome" and for some can last for a very long time. You may find it hard to get out of bed, leave the house, carry on with normal day-to-day activities or go to work. Some survivors try to cope by drinking, using drugs or overusing prescription medications. It is best to stay away from drugs and alcohol during your recovery as these substances only intensify your reactions, can cause problems of their own and can interfere with the healing process.
What Survivors Can Do
One of the most important things for survivors of sexual assault is knowing that they are not alone and that there is help available. Every survivor is unique and will need the help that is right for them. Professional counselling, support groups, friends and family can all play a part in assisting a survivor in the aftermath of an assault.
Self-care is also very important for survivors. Survivors struggling with feelings of shame and worthlessness, and other feelings that may arise after a sexual assault, can find it very difficult to take good care of themselves. However, self-care can be a vital part of the healing process.
What self-care looks like will be different for each person. Self-care means looking after your physical and emotional needs. It can be as simple as eating nutritious foods and getting enough sleep and as involved as developing supportive relationships and finding meaningful ways to spend your time.
Friends and Family of the Sexually Assaulted
Sexual assault of someone close can impact family and friends as well. You may experience many of the same symptoms as the survivor. It is important to practice good self-care and perhaps seek professional help or talk to a friend to assist you in dealing with any trauma symptoms and to assist you in providing support for the survivor.
Having information about responses to sexual assault can help you normalize them for the survivor. If you are going to be a support person for the survivor it is important to consistently be there for them. Let them know that you are willing to actively support and listen to them. If the survivor wishes to talk about the sexual assault, believe the survivor and accept what happened in a non-judgmental way. Don't push them to speak about it. Let them know that any reaction that allowed survival was the right thing to do.
Allow the survivor to make their own decisions. During the assault, power was taken from them and regaining control of their lives is an important aspect of healing. This could include allowing them to decide whether or not they want to report to the police. Remember that every survivor will be unique in their reactions and respect their decisions about what they most need to heal.
Offer practical support. This might involve accompanying them to appointments or walking with them to the corner store.
Touching and/or sexual intimacy may be very difficult for a survivor. Allow them to decide what kinds of physical contact they are comfortable with. Showing affection in non-physical ways is important.
Encourage them to seek medical care and counselling. Accompany them if they wish.
Continue to relate to them as more than just a survivor. Remember, this is your friend, your partner, your parent, etc.
Things you can say to a sexual assault survivor...
- I'm sorry this happened to you
- It wasn't your fault
- You survived - so you did the right thing
- Thank you for telling me
- I'm always here if you want to talk
- Can I do anything for you?
Legal Definition of Sexual Assault
The law recognizes the right of every person to choose whether to have sexual contact with another person. This applies to all kinds of sexual contact from a touch to intercourse.
Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault. It is also sexual assault to threaten to have sexual contact with someone without their consent. All sexual assaults are violent crimes because the victim has been subjected to sexual contact without their consent.
Myth: Sexual assault is a crime of passion.
Fact: Sexual assault is an act of VIOLENCE, not passion. It is an attempt to hurt and humiliate, using sex as the weapon.
Can my spouse, partner or someone I have been dating be charged with sexually assaulting me?
Yes. This law applies to everyone including partners, spouses, people you are dating and people you have had sex with before.
Myth: If a partner or spouse forces sex on you it's not sexual assault.
Fact: Yes, it is a sexual assault. In fact statistics indicate that most victims of sexual assault know the person. How can something be done by a stranger and be a crime, but the same act in a different context be tolerated? Sexual violence does not become permissible because the offender is a sexual intimate of the other person. This myth assumes that a person's right to withdraw consent is voided by the fact of a relationship. It also assumes that a person may have sex whenever they want, whether their partner is willing or not.
There are three levels of sexual assault based on the degree of force used.
Sexual assault occurs if you have been kissed, fondled or forced to have intercourse without consent.
Sexual Assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm occurs if more than one person assaulted you during the incident or the person who assaulted you did one of the following things...
- had a weapon, or an imitation weapon and threatened to use it
- threatened to harm someone else (a child or friend) if you did not consent
- injured you during the assault
Aggravated Sexual Assault happens if you were wounded, maimed or disfigured during the assault or if your life was endangered.
No always means no and only yes, expressed by your words or actions, means yes. A person cannot rely on your implied consent as a defence to sexual assault. Unless you agree to the activity it is sexual assault.
Your lack of consent does not have to be verbal. It may be expressed by words or your conduct. If you did not agree to it, it is sexual assault, even if you did not fight back.
If you are not capable of giving consent, perhaps because you are unconscious (sleeping or passed out), then it is sexual assault to engage in any sexual activity with you.
Myth: Someone who was drinking or drunk when sexually assaulted is at least partially to blame.
Fact: Sexual assault survivors are never responsible for the attack. No matter how much alcohol was consumed responsibility lies with the perpetrator; the survivor is never responsible for the assailant's behaviour. Alcohol may increase the risk of sexual assault, and may make someone incapable of giving consent or protecting themselves, but it is not the cause of the assault.
What happens if the person who assaulted me was so drunk that they thought I agreed to the activity?
If a person believes you consented it is not a defence if the person believes this because they have been drinking or they did not take reasonable steps to determine if you were consenting or not.
What if I initially agreed to the activity and then I changed my mind?
Even if you initially agree to the sexual activity you can express by your words or conduct that you no longer agree and that means the person no longer has your consent to continue.
What if someone else told the person who assaulted me that I wanted to have sex with them?
No one else can consent on your behalf.
What if I did not want to consent but was afraid to refuse because my attacker threatened to hurt my family if I did not agree to the activity?
If somebody threatens you to get your consent it is not valid consent. If somebody abuses their position of trust, power or authority to get your consent your consent is not valid. Without consent sexual contact is sexual assault.
Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault
What is Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault?
Perpetrators of sexual assault may use drugs to decrease resistance to assault and to cause memory loss of the assault. The use of drugs clearly says that these sexual assaults are planned and premeditated. If you are drugged and experience sexual assault it is the perpetrator of the assault who is to blame, even if you took the drug willingly. You cannot give consent to sexual activity if you are impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Experiencing Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault
Drugs may be processed by the body quickly so it can be difficult to detect them. The sooner you get help the more likely it will be that the drugs can be found.
Depending on what drug was given you may have little memory of the sexual assault and may only get bits and pieces of memory back. You will likely feel very confused and disoriented. The healing process may be made more difficult because of the lack of memory and because you may have a hard time acknowledging that what happened was a sexual assault. Survivors are likely to blame themselves for the assault due to drugs and alcohol being involved. If this happened to you, it is not your fault.
Indications of Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault
Most survivors of sexual assault who were drugged report suddenly feeling strangely light-headed and intoxicated and may have visual and/or physical impairment. They may wake up but still feel drowsy, confused, weak and have poor coordination. Often a survivor will have almost no recollection of what took place since starting to feel light-headed. Often when they can remember parts of the assault they recall feeling paralyzed, powerless or disconnected from their body. When alcohol is the only substance used, survivors may feel that they got drunker than they had planned that night, or they have some memories of having sexual activity that was not planned.
In drug-facilitated sexual assaults it is possible that the survivor has little or no recollection of a sexual assault. The following are some indications that a drug-facilitated sexual assault occurred.
- soreness in the genital or anal areas
- marks or bruises on the skin
- abnormal discharge
- loss of memory for a whole part of an evening or day
- flashes of memory of "coming to" but being unable to move then losing consciousness again
- waking up in different surroundings and not knowing how you got there
- waking up with clothes missing or put on differently
- a sense that something wrong happened or that "something is not right"
|Although media portrayals often involve a victim that has been slipped something like Rohypnol® or GHB, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada reports that alcohol is actually the most common drug involved in drug-facilitated sexual assault.|
Going to the Hospital
Getting medical attention is very important for survivors of sexual assault both in the immediate aftermath of the assault and in the longer term. Sometimes survivors are reluctant to seek medical attention. They may fear having to talk about the assault or having invasive examinations.
Knowing what to expect when you go to the hospital can help to reduce your anxiety about going to the hospital. In many areas there are people who are specially trained to help sexual assault survivors at the hospital. In many areas there are also sexual assault advocates who can come and support you and you can always bring a support person of your choice to the hospital with you.
Registration and Triage
- The admitting clerk will ask for your name, date of birth, address, and hospitalization number.
- You will then see a triage nurse who will ask a few questions about your reason for coming to the hospital. You need to tell the triage nurse only that you were sexually assaulted. You do not need to provide other details in that public area. The triage nurse may ask a few general questions, such as if you regularly take any medications or have any allergies.
- The triage nurse will try to quickly place you in a private room or area, away from other patients waiting to be seen.
- Any interview with doctors or nurses or police about the sexual assault will be done in a private room.
- You will be seen by the primary nurse assigned to the room, who will take your vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate).
- You will remain in your clothing.
- You will be asked if you have any injuries that are bothering you and a doctor may examine you before your sexual assault examination.
- You will not be given any food or beverage because eating and drinking may affect your exam.
- You may be asked if you want a sexual assault advocate called.
- If you must go to the bathroom, your nurse will collect a sample of your urine and ask that you not wipe yourself vigorously.
- You may have to wait for your examiner to begin the forensic examination.
Sexual Assault Examiner
In some regions, a specially trained registered nurse, called a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner or SANE, will be called to provide your care. These nurses have additional specific training which enables them to provide excellent care to patients who have been sexually assaulted. If there is not a sexual assault examiner at the hospital usually the emergency room doctor will conduct the exam. Your examiner will answer any questions you have. Feel free to ask anything; no questions are unimportant.
At this time you need to decide if you want to just be treated medically or if you want a forensic examination. In most places a forensic examination will not be done unless you have reported the assault to the police. In some places a forensic exam will be done and you can wait until after it is complete to make the decision to report and call the police.
A forensic examination includes a normal examination for injuries but is more complex. The examiner may collect clothing, any foreign material which is attached to clothing or body surfaces, and swabs from body surfaces that may contain the DNA of your assailant. The entire process will take approximately two to five hours. You have the right to decline any portions of the exam or to change your mind at any point during the exam. If you decide you want to have a forensic exam you may want to have a friend or family member bring clothes to the hospital for you as some of your clothing may be kept for evidence.
After you decide if you want to be treated medically only or if you want to be treated medically and receive a forensic examination, you will be asked to sign a consent form. Because there are health risks associated with sexual assault, you will still receive a complete medical examination even if you choose not to report to police.
Your examiner will ask you questions about your medical history and about the assault. Some of the questions may be a bit uncomfortable for you, but the examiner will allow you to take your time and speak as you are able. These include...
- date of your last period
- date of last sexual activity
- method of birth control
- details of the assault
A person from the hospital laboratory will collect blood samples for determining your general health and to see if you have been exposed to HIV or Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C in the past. The results of these tests may be sent to Public Health. If you have not yet used the washroom, a nurse will ask for a urine sample for the lab.
When you are ready to begin the exam, you will be asked to undress and put on a hospital gown. Your support person/advocate may be present while you undress and for the remainder of the exam, if you choose. Police officers will be asked to wait outside the room or behind a curtain for the duration of the examination.
If you consent to a forensic exam, you will receive a complete physical exam including...
- collection of clothing
- inspection for any foreign matter that may be on your body
- the type, location, and size of injuries will be recorded in your patient record
- a complete internal examination of any body openings affected by the assault (vagina, mouth, anus)
- collection of external and internal samples for presence of sperm and DNA, when appropriate
You can refuse any part of this exam or end the exam at any time.
After the examination you will be treated for any injuries. You will be offered an emergency contraceptive ("the morning after pill") and antibiotics to prevent infection. An emergency physician will evaluate your overall health and risk and will discuss with you the use of medications against HIV.
You may be given some written material to explain some of the physical and emotional changes that you may experience in the next weeks and months. A safety plan may be discussed with you. If you have concerns for your safety or that of your family, please speak to your examiner.
Follow-up care is very important. Some of the results from tests done when you were first treated will not be available until a later date. Some tests need to be performed more than once or need to be performed after a period of time has elapsed since the assault.
You may be contacted by Public Health or your primary care practitioner about test results.
You are strongly encouraged to obtain counselling for the emotional effects of sexual assault, even if you feel that you are coping well and have a strong network of support. You may be able to receive some funding from Victims Compensation to cover these expenses. You can find more information in the Victims Compensation section below.
For the next six months you will require ongoing medical supervision.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually transmitted infections are caused by germs. The germs are carried by one person and can be passed on to another person through sexual contact. Different types of sexual contact can transfer infections. These infections can be transferred by oral (mouth), by vaginal or by anal (bum) sex. Infections can also be spread through skin-to-skin contact.
It is very important to get tested for sexually transmitted infections if you have been sexually assaulted. Many sexually transmitted infections take several weeks to develop symptoms. If you have unusual discharge, odours, irritations, itching, blisters or sores or if you experience fever or pain you should seek medical attention immediately. It is very important to have follow-up testing done for many sexually transmitted infections.
The following information lists some sexually transmitted infections that a person can be tested for.
Chlamydia is a germ that can be spread through contact with sexual fluids from another person. It can infect the throat, vagina, womb and anus (bum). A sample is taken from any of these places to test for Chlamydia. A urine (pee) test can also be done.
Most people do not have any symptoms. They will not know if they have the infection. Symptoms may happen from 2 to 6 weeks after contact. Symptoms can be discharge from your vagina, pain when you pee, pain in your lower stomach, bleeding from your vagina after you have sex or pain between menstrual periods and pain while you are having sex.
There is medicine that will cure Chlamydia. You can take the medicine at the same time that you have the test done.
Gonorrhea is a germ that can be spread the same way as Chlamydia. It also infects the same places in the body. Testing is done in the same way as for Chlamydia.
Many people do not have symptoms if they have Gonorrhea. Some people may have pain or burning while peeing or an increase in discharge. Symptoms may show in 2 to 7 days.
Gonorrhea can be cured with medicine taken at the same time the test is done.
Syphilis is a germ that can be passed on through oral (mouth to genitals), vaginal or anal (bum) sex. The first sign that you may have Syphilis can be a painless sore that will be in the same area where the sexual contact took place. The sore may not appear for up to 90 days. Some people may develop a rash.
A blood test is the best way to test for Syphilis. This test may need to be done again in 4 to 6 weeks. Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics.
Genital Herpes is an infection that is spread through direct vaginal, oral (by mouth) or anal (by bum) sexual contact with a person who has Genital Herpes.
Not all people who have Genital Herpes will have symptoms. Symptoms may appear 2 to 21 days after becoming infected; usually after 6 days. When a person gets Genital Herpes, they may have painful sores, fever, muscle pain and pain when they pee.
The first time you get Genital Herpes it may last about 23 days. To test for Herpes the nurse will take a swab from the sores. Blood may be taken also.
Herpes can be controlled with medication but there is no cure. Do not apply any cream to the sores. Keep all the sores clean and dry. Many people will have the outbreaks again.
Human Papilloma Virus or "HPV"
HPV is a virus that is spread through direct sexual contact, including skin-to-skin contact of genitals. Many people who have HPV do not have symptoms and do not get warts. Some people may get warts within 1 to 8 months.
The warts can be small, soft flesh-colored growths. They can have a cauliflower-like appearance. The size and number of warts can change over time. Sometimes they will go away on their own. If they do not go away, a doctor can treat them.
A pap test is an important test to find out if you have HPV. It should be done once each year unless a doctor tells you something different.
Hepatitis B is caused by a virus that is spread through sexual contact (by mouth, anus/bum or vagina) with a person who has Hepatitis B. You can also get Hepatitis B through non-sexual contact.
Many people do not show signs or symptoms if they get Hepatitis B. Within 8 weeks after you are in contact with the virus a person may have flu-like symptoms like tiredness, nausea and vomiting, rash, joint pain, yellowing of the eyes and skin. Testing is done by a blood test.
There is no cure for Hepatitis B, but a vaccine to prevent the infection is available. After a sexual assault an injection of antibodies may be given up to 14 days later followed by the Hepatitis B vaccine to help prevent infection. Most people get over Hepatitis B within 6 months.
Hepatitis C is a virus that can cause an infection of the liver. Often people do not become sick until many years later. Hepatitis C is spread mainly through blood. The risk of getting Hepatitis C through sexual contact is low. Testing is done by a blood test. There is effective treatment for Hepatitis C.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus or "HIV-AIDS"
HIV is a virus that is transmitted when the body fluids of an infected person (blood, semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk) enter the blood stream of another person. This can occur through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex. Two to four weeks after exposure some people may develop mild flu-like symptoms that last a few weeks and then disappear.
For most people symptoms do not appear until years after exposure. HIV weakens the body and can make it easier to become sick. A blood test is the only way to test for HIV. It can take up to 3 to 6 months for the test to tell if you have HIV. Even if the first test is negative you should be tested again at a later date.
There is no cure for HIV. Treatments are available that can help the HIV slow down and help so that the person does not feel so sick. Medication is available to help prevent HIV infection from occurring. The person must take the medication right away after they have been in contact with the virus.
Pregnancy can happen when a woman is sexually assaulted. Medicine ("the morning after pill") can help stop a pregnancy from happening. This medicine should be taken as soon as possible after the assault. It should be taken within 24 hours (1 day), however it can be taken within 72 hours or up to 120 hours after the assault, depending on the type of medication used. You can get this type of medication from your doctor, from Planned Parenthood or from a drug store pharmacist. A pregnancy test can be done by a nurse or doctor and may need to be done more than once.
Child Sexual Abuse
Unlike adults, children cannot legally consent to sexual activity. Any kind of sexual contact with a child is child sexual abuse. Although there are some "close-in-age" exceptions, a person under 16 is generally considered a child for the purpose of these laws.
If a child is under 16:
The offence of sexual interference occurs when someone touches, directly or indirectly, any part of a child's body for sexual purposes.
The offence of invitation to sexual touching occurs when someone invites, counsels or incites a child to touch themselves or another person for sexual purposes.
Even if the child is 16 or older these actions can still be criminal offences if the young person is under the age of 18 and the person committing the act is in a position of trust or authority towards the child or the child is dependent on them.
Child sexual abuse usually occurs by someone known and trusted by the child and family. Offenders are typically family members, extended family, or a person in a position of responsibility over the child.
What should I do if a child has been sexually abused?
If you think that a child has been sexually abused talk with them in a private place. Have the child describe in their own words what happened. Patiently listen to the information, remain calm, support the child and thank them for speaking with you. Don't question the child. If you believe something has happened, contact the police to have them interview the child.
Children rarely "make up" tales or lie in relation to such a serious allegation. Some children find it extremely difficult to tell parents directly about the sexual abuse. Parents should be mindful of subtle or drastic changes in the child's behaviour. Refusal to be in the company of certain people or attend a particular location or function may be cues that something has happened.
Let the child know that they acted appropriately by informing you of the abuse and that you are saddened the abuse happened to them. Inform the child that protecting them from further abuse is your focus and you will do everything possible to keep them safe. Inform the child that they are not responsible and that it is not their fault.
Do I have to report it to the police?
Anyone who has reasonable grounds to believe that a child under 18 has been sexually abused must report it. Discuss with the child victim that the police must be notified and that they will be speaking with all people involved.
You can also call the Ministry of Social Services, Child and Family Services or a Sexual Assault Centre for further counselling and referrals.
Does the child need to be taken to the hospital?
Unless the child requires emergency medical treatment, the medical care the child requires should be discussed with the police and the child's regular physician. If the child requires emergency care they should be taken to the hospital.
Reporting Sexual Assaults to the Police
If you have decided to report the assault to the police you can call them right after the assault. Depending on the circumstances they may come to where you are. Once they arrive they will protect anyone still in danger, look for evidence and preserve evidence. They may take you to the hospital for medical attention.
If you first report the sexual assault at the hospital the police will generally come to the hospital. You can also report the assault at a later time by calling the police.
Usually you will be asked to go to the police station to make a statement about what happened to you. If you are not well enough to go to the police station other arrangements will be made.
Collecting Physical Evidence
The collection of physical evidence is an important part of the investigation of a sexual assault by the police. If you are considering reporting the assault to the police you will want to take steps to preserve evidence. Some of the steps you can take are outlined in the Preserving Evidence section above. You will also want to have a forensic examination which is discussed in The Medical Examination section above.
In addition to evidence collected at the forensic examination the police may need to take photographs and may need to keep some of your clothing.
The police may collect evidence from the scene of the crime. They may dust for fingerprints and take some property into custody.
Giving a Statement
When you report the sexual assault to the police you will be asked to give a full statement. This can be very difficult for sexual assault survivors but the police will need all the details you can remember to help them find and prosecute the person who did this to you.
A police officer will talk to you. They will have to ask you many questions about what happened. It is important to tell the police everything you remember about the incident.
The police may ask you to write out your statement or they might write the statement up for you to look over. Usually you will be asked to sign the statement. In some cases your statement may be recorded or videotaped. You can ask for a copy of your written statement.
It is important to carefully look over your statement. You will likely be very upset or perhaps in shock so make sure you take the time you need to get your statement right. If the perpetrator is caught there could be a trial and you may need to be a witness. As a witness you could be cross-examined by the defence about your statement. (See the Court Proceedings section below.)
Investigating the Crime
Once you report the sexual assault to the police they will decide whether to start an investigation. Once you have reported the incident it is no longer up to you to decide if someone will be charged. If the police decide they are investigating they may need to talk to you again during the investigation. They may ask you to make another statement.
If you don't know who attacked you the police may ask you to look at photos of people, view a lineup of people or describe your attacker to a police artist.
Will the police keep me informed about the investigation?
How and when you are given information about an investigation may vary. You should make note of the badge number and contact information for the officer in charge of the investigation as well as the police file number, so you can talk to someone if you feel you are not getting the information you need.
Laying Criminal Charges
After the police complete their investigation they may be able to charge someone with the sexual assault. Sometimes even after a thorough investigation the police will not have a suspect or they may not have enough evidence to lay a charge. If you have reported the crime you can access various services for victims whether someone is charged or not.
Will the police tell me if they charge someone?
The police will tell you what steps they will be taking. You can find out if the investigation is ongoing and if charges are likely. You can ask the police to let you know if they lay charges. Some Victim Services programs can assist with this information.
You can ask for the names of the accused after charges are laid. Once the matter goes to court the names of the accused are public record. The police will not give you information that could interfere with the investigation or affect someone's safety or security. They will also not disclose the names and contact information of other victims or witnesses.
What if the police do not charge anyone?
This does not mean that you were not a victim of sexual assault. If you are concerned about why someone has not been charged or the type of charge you can talk to the police. They may be able to help you understand the situation. Even if the police do not charge anyone right away they will keep a record of the crime and it is possible your attacker may be found at a later date.
Will the accused be kept in jail?
The police often release a person soon after charging him or her. A court may order the police to keep an accused person in jail until a later date, even until a trial. There must be good reason to keep a person in custody. Only the court can order that the accused stay in jail for longer than 24 hours.
If you have safety concerns, make them known to the police or Crown prosecutor (a lawyer employed by the government to prosecute criminal cases). A victim's safety will be considered by the police and the courts when deciding whether to release someone and in deciding what, if any, conditions should be put on the release.
It may help to remember that under Canadian law people are presumed to be innocent until they plead guilty or the charges are proven in court. If the person charged is released it does not mean that there is not a good case against the person. In most cases Canadian law presumes that a person should be free while waiting for a trial unless there are extraordinary reasons to keep them in custody.
If you are a victim of a sexual assault you can apply for compensation for reasonable expenses you have incurred as a result of the crime. Applications must be made to the Victims Services Branch of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice and Attorney General. To be able to apply for compensation you must have reported the crime to the police. You can apply for compensation if you have reported the crime even if no charges are laid or no one is convicted of the crime. The crime must have occurred in Saskatchewan.
Compensation may be awarded to cover expenses related to such matters as health care, ambulance costs, eyeglasses, dental work, lost earnings, and counselling, including the use of traditional Aboriginal healing methods. There are maximum amounts set out for each type of expense. If a victim receives money from other sources, such as an insurance plan or civil lawsuit, that amount may be deducted from any compensation. A formal appeal process is also available in the case of disagreements about compensation decisions.
Applications for compensation should be made as soon as possible. Your local victim service providers, listed in the Where to go for Help section below, can help you with the application. Normally applications will not be accepted after two years have passed since the crime was committed. Victims of sexual assaults, however, have two years from the time the crime was reported to the police to apply. A victim does not have to wait for the result of a police investigation or trial before applying. Application forms are available from local victim service providers, the Victims Services Branch in Regina, or from their website.
If someone is charged with a crime they must go to court to answer the charges. Sometimes an accused will decide to plead guilty to the charges. This means that the accused is admitting to committing the crime. In this case there does not need to be a trial. Depending on the circumstances the accused may decide to plead guilty early on in the process or much later, perhaps even during the trial. If the accused does not plead guilty there will be a trial.
Most often the person accused of the crime will appear in court a number of different times, even if they decide to plead guilty to the charges. Court dates can change and court proceedings may begin and then be adjourned. This means they will continue on another date. Sometimes people only find out that a case is going to be adjourned when they arrive at the court house. Victim Services can help you find out when and where hearings and trials will take place.
Victim Services can explain the court process and the terms used. They can arrange for a court orientation so you will know what to expect when you go to court. Victim Services may be able to have someone go to court with you for support. You may also choose to have friends and family accompany you.
Privacy in Court
Court proceedings are generally open to the public. However, the Criminal Code does specify some situations where the court may order that the public be excluded. Contact the Crown prosecutor if you have concerns about privacy in court.
Will my name be in the news?
Publication bans must be granted in sexual offence cases to protect the identity of the victim if the victim or Crown prosecutor requests the order. You can talk to the Crown prosecutor about requesting this order.
A Preliminary Inquiry is a hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to justify sending the case to trial. At the hearing the Crown prosecutor presents critical elements of the evidence against the accused. Witnesses, including victims, may be called to testify. The charge will be dismissed if the judge decides that there is not enough evidence to justify a trial. If the judge finds there is enough evidence, a trial date is set, unless the accused pleads guilty.
A person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If the accused does not plead guilty there will be a trial. Trials are held before a judge alone or a judge and jury. At the start of the trial both the Crown prosecutor and the lawyer for the accused (called the defence lawyer) can make opening statements telling the court the main points of their case.
After this the Crown prosecutor presents the case for the prosecution and calls witnesses. The Crown prosecutor asks the witnesses questions to help them tell the court what they have seen or heard. Then the defence lawyer can cross-examine the witnesses to challenge the evidence they gave. This is called the cross-examination. Once the defence lawyer is finished the Crown prosecutor can ask the witnesses more questions to make sure everything is clear. This is called redirect.
Once the Crown prosecutor has finished presenting the case, the defence can present their side. Because it is up to the Crown prosecutor to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the defence can choose not to present any evidence. The accused does not have to testify. If the defence calls witnesses the Crown prosecutor can cross-examine the witnesses. The defence lawyer can then ask more questions of the witness on redirect.
At the end of the trial the Crown prosecutor and the defence lawyer will make closing arguments. In these they will tell the court why they think the evidence shows that the accused is guilty or not guilty of the crime.
Being a Witness
Do I have to testify if there is a trial?
As the victim your testimony about what happened will be vital to the case against the accused. As a witness you will generally receive a subpoena, which is an order to appear in court and testify. You must appear in court to testify at the time and date stated in the subpoena. If you do not appear as required the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. If you refuse to testify you could be held in contempt of court and face a fine, or jail, or both.
I have concerns about being a witness. What should I do?
Often it is difficult to testify about what happened. You may have fears and concerns about testifying in court, or be worried about giving personal information. Speaking in open court about what happened may be very hard. There is support and help available.
Victim Services can help to make testifying easier by answering questions about the court process and supporting you through your experience as a witness. Specialized Victim/Witness Services are available to assist children and other more vulnerable witnesses who must testify in court. You can talk to Victim Services or the Crown prosecutor about any help you need.
You may also be unsure about understanding and answering questions well. You may be worried about not remembering important dates, times or other details. These concerns are normal. You can ask to meet with the Crown prosecutor to discuss what you have to say as a witness. The defence lawyer may also ask to talk to you before you testify. You can meet with the defence lawyer if you want to, but you do not have to.
It is an offence for a person to harass a witness or try to influence a witness's testimony. If this happens to you, tell the police or Crown prosecutor right away.
What happens when I get to court?
When you get to court you will have to wait outside of the courtroom until it is your turn to testify. In larger communities, Victim Services provides safe, private waiting rooms for children and other vulnerable witnesses. One of the court staff will call you when it is time for you to testify.
Before testifying, adult witnesses must take an oath or solemnly affirm to tell the truth. Witnesses under the age of 14 are not required to take an oath or make a solemn affirmation before testifying. Instead, they may testify once they have promised to tell the truth.
Once you have taken an oath or affirmed to tell the truth the Crown prosecutor will ask you questions to help you tell the court what happened. The defence lawyer can then also ask you questions.
I am afraid to testify in open court about what happened. What can I do?
Normally witnesses have to testify in open court. In some circumstances witnesses may be allowed to testify behind a screen, from outside the courtroom by video conference or by closed-circuit television. In some circumstances witnesses can have a support person with them while they give their testimony.
If you want a support person or want to testify by video conference or closed-circuit television or behind a screen you should talk to the Victim/Witness Coordinator or the Crown prosecutor about this before the court date.
Will I be asked about my sex life?
Many sexual assault survivors are concerned about being required to answer invasive personal questions, particularly questions about their sex life. The law protects the privacy of victims of sexual assault by prohibiting questions about the victim's sexual activity with the accused or anyone else if the purpose of these questions is to show that the victim should not be believed or that the victim is more likely to have consented to sexual activity with the accused.
Evidence of any sexual activity, other than the assault itself, can only be admitted if the court allows it after considering things like how important the evidence would be to the outcome of the trial and potential harm to the victim's personal dignity and right of privacy.
If the charges are proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, the judge or jury finds the accused person guilty. If the charges are not proven, the accused is found not guilty. Another way of saying this is that the person accused of the crime is acquitted. If you are not in the courtroom for the verdict you can ask the Crown prosecutor or Victim Services what the outcome of the trial was.
As a victim you may not be satisfied with the way the trial turned out. For example, an accused may be acquitted even though you thought there was enough evidence for a conviction. If an accused is acquitted it does not necessarily mean that you were not believed.
Our laws presume that someone is innocent unless their guilt is proved in court beyond a reasonable doubt. This means it is not enough if the judge thinks the accused probably committed the crime. The judge must be convinced that a guilty verdict is the only reasonable conclusion that could be reached from all the evidence, including your testimony. If you are unsatisfied with how a trial turned out it may help to talk about your reactions with someone you trust.
Victim Impact Statements
A Victim Impact Statement gives you a chance to let the court know how the crime has affected your life. All victims must be informed that they can prepare a statement. All victims can decide for themselves whether they want to complete a Victim Impact Statement.
What information should go in a Victim Impact Statement?
In the statement you can describe any physical, emotional or financial impacts of the crime. The statement is about you, not the accused, and should describe how the crime has affected you and any losses you have suffered because of the crime.
How do I make a Victim Impact Statement?
The police or Victim Services will provide you with a form to fill out and sign. You may receive assistance in filling out the form but it must be completed in your own words. Your writing must be readable.
Since sentencing may take place earlier than expected, it is a good idea to prepare your Victim Impact Statement ahead of the anticipated court date. You may update your statement any time before sentencing by contacting the police or the Crown prosecutor.
Who will see my statement?
If the case goes to court the Crown prosecutor must disclose the Victim Impact Statement to the accused. It will only be filed with the court if there is a finding of guilt. If you testify at a preliminary hearing, trial or sentencing hearing you may be cross-examined by the defence lawyer about your Victim Impact Statement.
Once your statement is filed with the court it becomes a public document. This means that it will be seen by many people responsible for the administration of justice. This could include, for example, a Crown prosecutor preparing for a bail hearing, probation staff who are supervising the offender on probation and corrections staff who are making decisions about the release of an offender from jail. Because it is a public document the contents could be reported in the media but if there is a publication ban no information that would disclose your identity can be published.
How will my statement be used in court?
The judge will consider your statement at the time of sentencing but the judge may decide not to allow certain parts of your statement to be used in court. The judge can postpone sentencing to give you time to prepare a statement, if you have not already done so.
You can ask to read your Victim Impact Statement out loud in court. If you want to read it out loud in court you must tell the Crown prosecutor. If you do not want to read it yourself you can ask the judge to have someone read it for you. The judge will decide whether to allow this. You can present your statement in any way that the court approves. Whether the statement is read aloud or not, the judge will consider it when sentencing the offender.
If an accused is found guilty they will be sentenced. Things like pre-sentence reports and Victim Impact Statements can help the court decide on a sentence.
There are a wide range of sentences that are possible when someone is convicted of sexual assault. The maximum sentence for sexual assault that does not involve things like a weapon or bodily harm is 18 months, if it is prosecuted as a summary conviction offence, and 10 years, if it is prosecuted as an indictable offence.
However, if the victim of the sexual assault is under 16 there is a minimum sentence of 90 days in jail if the offence is prosecuted as a summary conviction offence and one year in jail if the offence is prosecuted as an indictable offence.
The prosecutor decides whether to prosecute the offence as a summary conviction offence or an indictable offence depending on the circumstances of the assault.
If a person is convicted of sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm they can be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison. If a person is convicted of aggravated sexual assault they can be sentenced to life in prison. If a firearm was used in the assault or if organized crime was involved there are minimum sentences ranging from 4 to 7 years in prison. It is important to remember that the maximum sentences are usually reserved for the worst offender who has committed the worst type of the offence.
The Crown prosecutor or Victim/Witness Services can tell you the time, date and place of the sentencing hearing if you ask. If you are not there when the sentence is decided Victim Services can tell you what sentence the offender received. You can view and print the text of a court decision by going to the Law Society of Saskatchewan's website.
Help for Victims of Sexual Assault
Battlefords & Area Sexual Assault Centre
24 Hour Crisis Line: 306-446-4444
Envision Counselling and Support Centre
24 hour crisis line: 1-800-214-7083
Lloydminster Sexual Assault & Information Centre
24 hour crisis line: 306-825-8255
North East Outreach and Support Services (Melfort)
24 hour crisis line: 1-800-611-6349
Partners Family Services (Humboldt)
Piwapan Women’s Centre (La Ronge)
Prince Albert Mobile Crisis Unit Sexual Assault Program
24 hour crisis line: 306-764-1011
Regina Sexual Assault Centre
24 hour crisis line: 306-352-0434
Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre
24 hour crisis line: 306-244-2224
SIGN Sexual Assault Counselling Program (Yorkton)
West Central Crisis & Family Support Centre (Kindersley)
Help for Victims of Crime
Centre for Children's Justice and Victim Services (Saskatoon)
Contact your local municipal police service or RCMP detachment using the number in your phone book or call 911 in an emergency.
Police-based Victim Services
A number of police services throughout the province have Victim Services. Contact your local police or Victims Services at the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General, or visit www.justice.gov.sk.ca/Police-based-Victim-Services for information about a program in your area.
Public Prosecutions Division, Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice and Attorney General
Victims Services Branch, Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice and Attorney General
Toll Free: 1-888-286-6664
- Regina Victim/Witness Services
- Saskatoon Victim/Witness Services
- Prince Albert Victim/Witness Services
- La Ronge Victim/Witness Services
- Battlefords Victim/Witness Services
- Meadow Lake Victim/Witness Services
Abuse Help Lines
The front of your SaskTel phone book has contact information for abuse help lines, shelters and counselling and support services in your area.
Kids Help Phone
Toll Free: 1-800-668-6868
The Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres (CASAC)
National Office for Victims
Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
Toll Free: 1-866-481-8429
Policy Centre for Victim Issues
Provincial Association of Transition Houses (PATHS)
Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan