Frequently Asked Questions

What is sexual violence?
Sexual violence is a lot more than rape.  It’s any unwanted act of a sexual nature imposed by one person on another.  It can include sexual harassment, verbal assault, sexual assault, and childhood sexual abuse.  Even things like sexist jokes or using violent and disrespectful language contributes to a culture that condones and supports sexual violence.  It can happen between heterosexual or same-sex couples and occurs in married, common-law and dating relationships.

Are the majority of sexual assaults committed by strangers?
While there are certainly instances of sexual assault being perpetrated by strangers, the vast majority of sexual violence happens at the hands of someone the victim knows and often loves. It could be a friend, partner or someone you work with.

Is sexual assault a crime of passion when someone loses control?
Sexual violence is not about lust, uncontrollable desire or having had a few too many drinks. It’s about one person exerting power and control over another. And it’s a result of a society that promotes inequalities including gender inequality between men and women, which leads to the abuse and oppression of women and children.

What about the outfits that women wear?  They’re asking for it...
No one asks to be raped or sexually assaulted.  The assailant is to blame for the abuse.  The responsibility needs and should be put on the abuser.  The abuser is 100% responsible for his/her choices and actions.

If the victim didn’t try to fight back and/or run away; have they really been sexually assaulted?
In a situation such as sexual assault, victims can respond in many different ways: fight, flight or freeze. The victim has no control over how they will respond to this traumatic event and many will freeze. The issue isn’t how the person reacted to the sexual violence, but rather consent.

What does a sexual offender look like? 
There is really no way to tell for sure if a person might be a sex offender because the offender usually looks as normal as anyone else.  Sometimes there may be no clues even in the way a person acts.  You may be concerned about someone's behaviour if a person makes rude sexual comments towards you, bugs you to have sex when you don't want to, follows you around, or if a person has sexually assaulted someone else.

How many years after you've been sexually assaulted can you turn the person in to the police? 
There is no time limit on when you can report a sexual assault.  However, reporting it as soon as possible may increase the chances of proving a sexual assault case.

How much do your services cost?
Services for survivors of sexual violence are confidential and free of charge.

If I report that I've been sexually assaulted what will happen? 
You can report a sexual assault right away by calling 911 or your local emergency number.  An Emergency Call Operator will tell you what to do next.  A police officer will come and talk with you to find out what happened and will write a report.  A specially-trained plainclothes police officer will then investigate.  If the assault occurred within the past three days, the operator or police officer may encourage you to attend a Sexual Assault Care Centre at the hospital, or to an Emergency Department.  This is to make sure you are not injured and to discuss the possibility of having a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit completed.

If you're under 16 years old and have been assaulted by a family member or you are at risk of further abuse, a Children's Aid worker will participate in a joint investigation with police to make sure you're safe.

Do I have any choices about what the police will do? 
Yes.  You can choose to take the investigation in three different directions.

  • NO FURTHER ACTION:  The police will write a report and it will be filed for safe keeping.
  • OFFENDER CAUTIONED:  The police will write a report and will tell the offender about the information they received. The offender is cautioned about his/her behaviour.
  • CHARGES LAID:  If the police and Crown Attorney think they can prove to a judge that you were sexually assaulted, you may have the offender charged.

 No matter which way you want it handled the police will register the offender on the national Violent Crime Linkage/Analysis System (VICLAS).  VICLAS helps police track violent offenders and sex offenders throughout all of Canada.

Your case is kept confidential but there are laws governing what police and/or the Children's Aid Society must do to ensure the safety of individuals under 16 years of age.  This is on a case-by-case basis.

If the offender gets found "not guilty" will I be called a liar or get arrested? 
You will not be called a liar if the offender gets found "not guilty".  You will not be arrested if the offender is found "not guilty."

The Crown Attorney and the police will do their best to prove the truth.  Sometimes the law can be complicated, so even if someone is guilty, they can still be found "not guilty" of the charges.

What punishment will a sexual offender get? 
A judge must listen to the evidence in court.  If the judge finds the offender guilty, she/he must decide on the right sentence.  The Criminal Code of Canada sets out rules for what sentence the judge may choose.

You can let the judge know how the sexual assault affected you, by writing a letter.  This is called a 'Victim Impact Statement'.  This information will also be used to decide the sentence.