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A sexual assault is any form of sexual activity that has been forced by one person upon another without consent. Sexual assault can happen between people of the same or opposite sex. It includes any unwanted act of a sexual nature such as kissing, fondling, oral sex, intercourse or other forms of penetration, either vaginal or anal.
Most victims of sexualized violence abuse are assaulted by someone they know rather than by a stranger. It may be a family member, co-worker, date, boyfriend, friend or another individual within close proximity to the victim.
Someone who has been sexually assaulted may react in a wide variety of ways, depending on her/his age, personality, the form of sexual assault committed, the relationship to the perpetrator, degree of violence and whether the assault was a one-time incident or had happened in the past.In the days immediately following an assault, a victim will typically show signs of shock, including:
In the longer term, a person who has been sexually assaulted/abused may continue to experience these feelings in addition to other serious impacts. You may want to pretend like it never happened, however many victims find that their feelings about what happened tend to resurface and come out in different ways. It’s important that you have someone you trust to speak with, and counseling is highly recommended.
Locally, Avalon Sexual Assault Centre offers free services to women 16 years and older who have experienced sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse or sexual harassment. They also provide counselling to non-offending parents of sexually abused children. They can be reached at: 902-422-4240.
For male victims of sexual assault, there are various resources that can be made available. Please contact Halifax Regional Police Victim Services for more information.
Any attack of a sexual nature in which force is used in considered a “simple sexual assault”. This crime is found in section 271(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada. No physical injury is necessary to prove that an offense has occurred. When prosecuted as an indictable offense, simple sexual assault carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
Reporting a sexual assault to anyone, let alone police can feel very scary. You may worry you won’t be believed or be taken seriously. You may feel ashamed or that it was a private matter. You might wonder if you did something to make it happen, but IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Your feelings are normal, and most people who have been sexually assaulted have similar feelings.
The decision to report to police is entirely yours. Some survivors say that reporting and seeking justice helped them recover and regain a sense of control over their lives. Understanding how to report and learning more about the experience can take away some of the unknowns and help you feel more prepared.
Click on the graphic below to view our handout on the sexual assault investigative process.
We also know that most sexual assaults are not reported to the police due to some of these feelings.
If a victim does not choose to report a sexual assault to the police, other support services are available.
The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21
Kids Help Phone
kidshelpphone.ca or 1-800-668-6868
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For male survivors of sexual assault
For female survivors of sexual assault