If you have been the victim of sexual assault, call Halifax Regional Police’s Victim Services Unit at 902.490.5300, Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., to get help.
If you're unable to call due to hearing impairment, you can text us at 902.497.4709.
What is a sexual assault?
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.
Sexual assault is a crime. 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.
Recognize the impact of sexual assault
Someone who has been sexually assaulted may react in a wide variety of ways, depending on their age, personality, the form of sexual assault committed, the relationship to the perpetrator, the degree of violence, and whether the assault was a one-time incident or had happened repeatedly in the past.
In the days immediately following an assault, a victim will typically show signs of shock, including:
- intense fear or anxiety
- sadness and depression
- frequent mood swings
- problems sleeping or eating
- seeming or acting withdrawn
- anger and/or aggression toward people around them
In the longer term, a person who has been sexually assaulted or sexually 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 counselling is highly recommended.
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. Call them at 902.422.4240.
For male victims of sexual assault, there are various resources available. Please contact Halifax Regional Police Victim Services (902.490.5300) for more information.
The province of Nova Scotia offers the Independent Legal Advice Program for legal advice for sexual assault survivors. Call 211 to register.
Reporting sexual assault
Reporting a sexual assault to anyone, let alone to the 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.
Find out how the sexual assault investigative process works from the moment you make the call to us to the end of the investigation.