Sexual assault: any sexual act you are forced to do that you haven’t agreed to.
It is against the law for one person to force unwanted sexual acts on another person. Sexual assault is the legal term for the crime. Rape is one form of sexual assault.
You do not have to be physically hurt for it to be a crime.
- Many sexual assaults happen when one person threatens or scares another into sex. These threats don’t need to be physical.
It doesn’t matter who forces you into unwanted sex, it’s against the law.
- Husbands can be charged with sexually assaulting their wives.
- Boyfriends can be charged with sexually assaulting their girlfriends.
- If a date or someone you know casually, pressures you, drugs you, threatens you, or forces you to have sex this is called date rape and they can also be charged.
My sexual assault just happened. What can I do?
Go to a safe place. Then you can do any or all of the following:
Ask a good friend or relative to stay with you. You may want to talk. You may not. You may just feel better with someone you trust close by.
Sexual Assault Organizations, Women’s shelters and Victim Service Organizations can be very helpful at a time like this. They have staff that understand sexual assault and they will know how to talk about the assault. They also know about sexual assault and the law. If you don’t want to call the police, they will support your decision. If you do want to call the police, they will assist you with this process.
Do I have to call the police?
It is your choice. Not every person wants to call the police after he or she has been sexually assaulted. You do not have to call them if you don’t want to. You may want to bring a relative or friend you trust with you when you talk to the police.
Talk to the police if:
- you are in danger
- you think the person who sexually assaulted you may hurt you again
- you think the person who sexually assaulted you may hurt someone else
- you want to see that charges are laid against them
You can also tell police your story and ask them not to do anything about it. The police may not like this, but it is your choice if you are over 16 years of age.
You can also call the police at a later time.
It is your choice. Hospital based sexual assault centres specialize in dealing with sexual assault survivors. They won’t call the police if you don’t want them to. They can collect evidence (semen, record of bruises, scratches, and other injuries), give tests for pregnancy, HIV and sexually transmitted infections and provide the morning after pill and other medications to help prevent STI’s. Try not to shower or wash away the evidence, even if this is hard to do.
Your evidence can be frozen in case you want to report the sexual assault later instead of right away. If you choose to call the police, this evidence can help their investigation.
Remind yourself that you are not to blame.
Many women who have been sexually assaulted do not report it to police. They may feel ashamed, shocked, and helpless. It is important to share these feelings with someone who is trained and can help you.
You may want to call or visit a Sexual Assault Centre, a Women’s Shelter or a Victim Services Unit to talk about what happened. They will be able to help you sort out your options.
You may want to call the police and tell them your story. They will investigate if they think they can find enough evidence (proof). A person can be charged with a sexual assault that happened long ago if there is enough evidence.
You may want to find a therapist or counselor and talk about your feelings.
You may want to hire a lawyer and sue the person who assaulted you in civil court.
When you call the police…
- Describe the sexual assault
The police officer will ask you a lot of questions. Many of these questions will be very personal. Some police officers are easier to talk to than others.
The police will take notes or videotape what you say to them. The police may read you a ‘caution’ before you make your statement, warning you that you could be charged for making a false statement.
You will be questioned about this statement in court. You must be sure about everything in it. Do not sign the statement unless you agree with everything it in. Do not guess about anything – just say so if you don’t remember. If anything is missing from your statement, tell the police to add it.
Remember these things anytime you talk with police:
- Tell them if you are uncomfortable answering their questions. You may want to tell them why.
- You do not have to answer any questions asked about your sexual history. If the police ask you a lot about this, get help from a women’s organization.
- You can stop talking to police anytime you want. You may want to stop now but start again later.
- You can get an advocate from your local Sexual Assault Centre or Women’s Shelter to come with you.
You do not have to do this alone.