What is Sexual Violence?
Sexual Violence is an overarching, “umbrella,” term used to describe any violence – physical or psychological – carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality; includes sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse and sexual harassment.
Rape Culture is a culture in which sexual and gender-based violence is pervasive and normalized due to societal beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, traditions, etc.
Childhood Sexual Abuse
Anyone under the age of 16 years old.
Duty to Report
Anyone who is suspicious or concerned of child abuse occurring is responsible for reporting immediately, not for proving whether or not child abuse has occurred. The person who has the suspicion or concern must report and cannot ask anyone else to do so for them. It is the responsibility of a child protection agency to investigate, with police where necessary, and decide on the best plan for the child.
Things to Know about Sexual Violence: Debunking Myths and Misconceptions
- Perpetrators come from every economic, racial, ethnic, age, religious, ability, language, orientation and gender identity background. However, a vast majority of perpetrators are white, heterosexual, cisgender men.
- Most perpetrators are not strangers, but are known to the survivor – family, friends, partners. Sexual violence occurs in all different forms of partner relationships – heterosexual, non-heterosexual, marriage, common-law, dating, monogamous and non-monogamous relationships.
- Most sexual violence is committed without the use of a weapon and does not necessarily involve physical force. Coercion – manipulation or threat with real or imagined consequences – is a very common tool used by perpetrators.
- A majority of sexual violence occurs in people’s homes. However, sexual violence can occur in any location – public or private.
- Sexual orientation and gender identity are not the cause of sexual assault. Similarly, sexual assault does not determine a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Anyone can be a survivor of sexual violence – anyone of any economic, racial, ethnic, age, religious, ability, language, orientation and gender identity background. A vast majority of victims/survivors are women and girls.
- Individuals who are face oppression, especially those of intersectional identities (women, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, racialized individuals, elderly individuals, those living in poverty, newcomers) are disproportionately targeted by perpetrators of sexual violence.
- Survivors are not to blame for the sexual violence they faced (no matter what they were wearing, if they were intoxicated, if they engage in sex a lot or have multiple partners, if they were out alone, etc.). Blame lies only with the perpetrator.
Preparing for a Medical Examination after Sexual Assault
If you are able to (this is entirely up to you), try to avoid activities that could potentially damage evidence such as:
- Using the restroom
- Changing clothes
- Combing hair
- Cleaning up the area
If you have been sexually assaulted, it is your decision whether or not you want to go to the police. For more information, please contact our local Victim/Witness Assistance Program (VWAP): 613-545-2455.
Surviving the System Handbook: Advice on Using the Legal System if You are a Survivor of Sexual Violence created by the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children, offers comprehensive advice on using the legal system if you are a survivor of sexualized violence: http://www.learningtoendabuse.ca/sites/default/files/Surviving_the_System_Handbook_June2014.pdf
LISTEN to what the survivor says. Acknowledge the strength and courage it takes to talk about their experience. Thank them for trusting you with their personal information. Help them find the resources they need. Support the decisions they make, even if you think they should do something different. Do not interrupt or ask a lot of questions. Respect their need for privacy. Let them disclose what they are comfortable with.
BELIEVE the survivor. Tell them you believe them. It is also important to think about what you say.
CONTAIN your own feelings. It is important not to show shock or horror. This may reinforce a person’s sense of shame and this may deter them from seeking more support. Avoid talking about getting revenge. Talk of revenge can create anxiety for a survivor and can put your own safety at risk.”
REASSURE them by saying “It is not your fault.” No one ever asks or deserves to be sexually assaulted. The only person to blame for a sexual assault is the perpetrator.”
AVOID BLAMING by not asking questions like, “What were you doing there anyways?” As well, avoid asking questions using the word “why.” Even with the best intentions the question might sound accusatory to the survivor.
BE CAREFUL about touching (e.g. hugging) the person without asking permission.
GET INFORMATION and help the survivor find existing resources including legal, medical and emotional support.
BE AWARE that the person may not hate the offender; they may have very conflicting feelings especially if the offender is a partner, acquaintance or relative.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF Sexual violence is difficult for everyone, especially for those close to the survivor. You may experience many emotions, such as, disbelief, anger or guilt. It is important that you get the support you need from someone other than the survivor, while maintaining the survivor’s confidentiality.
A majority of the above information modified directly from: Supporting Survivors of Sexual Assault. Women Against Violence Against Women. http://www.wavaw.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/FactSheet_SupportingSurvivors.pdf
SUICIDE PREVENTION & INTERVENTION. If you fear they are suicidal, get help: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/suicide-prevention/suicide-prevention-helping-someone-who-is-suicidal.htm
DO NOT FORCE the survivor to use resources they do not want to. It is up to them as to whether or not they want to go to the hospital, to the police, to court and/or to counselling or other support options.
LEARN MORE about sexual violence and trauma. The more you know, the better you can understand and support a survivor.
If you are seeking more information about supporting a survivor, contact Sexual Assault Centre Kingston:
613-545-0762 ext 106