Sexual Assault is a crime. You have been sexually assaulted if you have been kissed, fondled, or forced to have sexual intercourse against your will.
Some of the feelings expressed by those who have been victims of sexual assault are; shocked, scared, furious, ashamed, confused, and disgusted. You're hurt, you feel alone, and if you have been sexually assaulted you need to take care of yourself.
Your first thought may be to wash and change your clothes, TO GET CLEAN. If you do wash or bathe or even comb your hair, you may destroy evidence of the assault. To help the police, it is best to get help without cleaning up. Even if you can identify the offender, this collaborating evidence could be essential to the investigation.
YOU will have to decide what to do. Here are some ways you can get help if you have been sexually assaulted:
Call the Police - The police can take you to the hospital right away. Tell the police where you are and what happened. They will answer your call quickly. Calling the police is the first step in the legal process. When a crime has been committed, they have a duty to report the crime and to try and find the person who did it. They will have to write a police report about what happened to you.
Go To The Hospital - Getting medical attention is most important. The emergency ward of a hospital is always open. It can, however be a busy place, so if you have no obvious injuries, you need to be firm. Tell the nurse who is in charge of admissions exactly what happened to you. Then you will be given the care you need as soon as possible.
Call The Sexual Assault Centre - You may want to call the sexual assault centre toll fee 1-877-237-5888. Trained counselors are usually available to give you support and help 24 hours a day. They have experience talking to people who have been sexually assaulted. They can give you information you need and answer your questions.
Write Down What Happened to You - You probably feel that you will never forget a single detail of what just happened. It's all too clear in your mind. Write down everything that happened as soon as you can anyway. Writing down what you remember is important for three reasons:
- Taking time to write now can help sort out your emotions and help you deal with what's happened to you.
- If the case goes to trial many months from now, your notes will help you remember the details of what happened.
- Something you write down may become important in the police investigation.
Victim Assistance Services - At the time of reporting the assault to the Police or as a matter of follow-up, a Victim Assistance Support worker, who works directly with Medicine Hat Police Service, will offer you emotional and practical support. They will provide you with information about sexual assault, the investigation, the legal process and referral service to counseling agencies and community support groups. You will also be provided with the opportunity to write a Victim Impact Statement and receive information on Crimes Compensation for personal injuries losses. If you are required to be a witness they will provide court orientation and courtroom support.
SEXUAL ASSAULT is a crime because the sexual activity happened without your permission. You know you didn't agree to what happened but, according to the law, the court must decide for itself that you did not agree. Your consent for sexual activity must be freely given. You did not consent if you were afraid to fight back or if you were frozen with fear. And, you did not necessarily consent to sexual intercourse or anal sex with someone because you held hands, kissed, or fondled each other. NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO FORCE YOU TO ENGAGE IN ANY SEXUAL ACTIVITY AGAINST YOUR WILL. You always have the right to say "NO". Your consent is not freely given if you had no choice but to do what the person said.
Whether or not you consented to the sexual activity may be an important issue at the trial. The court will consider your testimony and all the evidence including answers to questions like these:
- Did you kick? argue? scratch? try to run away?
- Was the attacker bigger and/or stronger than you?
- Was the attacker in a position of authority over you? (For instance, your
teacher or boss.)
- Did the attacker have a gun? a knife? another kind of weapon?
- Did the attacker threaten to hurt someone else close to you? your child? a
- Did the attacker break into your home? or get into your home by pretending
to be someone else?
- Were you lied to? For instance, you agreed to go home with someone only to find a number of people there waiting for you?
If you did fight back you will not be charged with assault because you hit, kicked, or injured an attacker. The law says you can use the force that is necessary to fight off an attack. You are acting in self-defence. It is not always possible to fight back. Every situation is different and everyone reacts different; YOUR LACK OF RESISTANCE DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU CONSENTED TO THE ASSAULT.
For a person to be convicted of sexual assault, however, the court must decide two separate questions. First, the court must believe that you did not agree to the sexual activity. Second, the court must decide that the attacker knew that you were not consenting.
If you didn't fight back, it might be more difficult for the court to believe that the accused understood your "no". For instance, if the person who attacked you was someone you knew, with whom you had had sexual relations before, how did that person know that this time you did not consent? The question is less likely to be asked if you were attacked by a stranger. Someone who grabs you in a parking lot, hurts you and forces you to have sexual intercourse will have a hard time convincing the court that you consented to the attack.
REMEMBER it is never too late to report a crime. Even if you decide not to go to the police right after you were sexually assaulted, you may change your mind. The police will take your statement and then consider if there is enough evidence to proceed. When you don't report a sexual assault right away, the physical signs may have disappeared. It is therefore harder for the police to collect evidence of the assault. It may be harder for them to find the person who assaulted you. They may want to know why you waited before reporting the crime. Waiting days, weeks, months, before reporting a sexual assault makes it much more difficult to prove in court that the assault took place. That's why the police want you to report a sexual assault immediately. However, even at a later date your evidence is important. It could lead to the conviction of the person who attacked you, and it might be of help to the police in investigations of other sexual assaults.
This information and additional information is supplied to the Victim Services Unit by the Department of Justice, Canada.
Ms. Roseanne Kaupp
phone: (403) 529-8480
Ms. Deidre Giesbrecht
Ms. Nathalie Castets
phone: (403) 529-8469