Regardless of what you have been told or how you feel, you are not at fault or to blame for what happened!
Whether you experienced sexual violence as a child, teenager, or as an adult, your experience and the pain you have suffered matters. As a faith-based organization, we believe that Christ desires all those who have been wounded by abuse to experience healing and freedom from past trauma. It’s never too late to get help and take steps towards greater healing. You are not permanently damaged or irreparable as a result of what happened. There is help available!
Is what I’m experiencing normal?
Sexual assault or abuse can be deeply traumatizing and leave long-lasting impacts on one’s mind, body, and spirit. Everyone reacts and processes an experience of sexual violence in their own way. However, there are common responses to sexual assault trauma that may occur directly after the experience or months/years later. These might include:
- Feelings of shame
- Lack of self-worth
- Difficulty trusting oneself or others
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Hypervigilance (feeling on high alert)
- Feeling disconnected from self, others, God
- Flashbacks, intrusive thoughts that remind of the trauma
- Feeling triggered and panicked when reminded of the experience
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping all the time
- Loss of appetite, stomach pain, headaches
*If you are suffering with any of these symptoms please know that there is help and none of these responses own you. We would encourage you to find a skilled therapist or counsellor to help you work through the trauma.
What Should I do?
The first priority is your safety and your health! If you are in immediate danger call 911.
- If you were sexually assaulted it is important that you seek medical attention. A forensic exam can only be done within 120 hours (5 days) of the assault. A forensic exam is done to collect evidence and DNA which is advised if you think you will want to report to the police.
- Having a forensic exam done DOES NOT mean you have to make a police report. *Please contact your local sexual assault center to find out where you can get a forensic exam in your area.
- A medical exam can be done at any time to address health concerns such as sexually transmitted infections. However, certain medications are most effective if administered within 120 hours of the assault
- Assess your safety. Are there places or people you do not feel comfortable around as a result of your experience? Pay attention to those feelings and develop a plan to help increase your sense of security (e.g. take a friend with you, avoid being alone with the person who violated you).
- At all times it’s best that you do what honours your need for safety, and that you seek support from those you trust and whom you know will believe you.
- It is up to you whether or not to report your experience of sexual violence. Sexual assault, exploitation, and abuse are all forms of criminal activity according the Criminal Code of Canada. Some forms of sexual harassment would also be considered illegal.
- Reporting to the police does not supersede reporting to an institution if the violence happened in a school, workplace, church, etc. Depending on your needs you could decide to report internally to an organization and/or to the police or neither.
Reporting to the police: Call your local RCMP or police to make a report of sexual assault, abuse, or exploitation. Click here for further information on what happens when you make a formal police report. It’s important to know that once you make a formal police report it cannot be retracted.
Reporting to an institution or workplace: All organizations, churches, and workplaces should have policies and procedures in place for how to report sexual violence. Generally, an investigation will be initiated by the institution and should be conducted by a third-party investigator (although that is not always the case).
Reporting to Child & Family Services: When reports are made to the police that involve minors, Child & Family Services (CFS; or other governmental child protection agency) is usually notified. If you are under the age of 18, you can report to the police or CFS. If you are under the age of 18 and know of someone who is experiencing sexual violence, please talk to a trusted adult or notify the police. If you are an adult and know or have reason to believe that a minor is being sexually violated or abused you must notify local authorities.
Support and Healing
- Are there people in your life who you feel safe talking to about your experience? It’s not easy going through an experience of sexual violence alone or keeping it a secret. If you have supportive friends or family members, we would encourage you to reach out and let them know about your experience.
- If you are suffering emotionally, physically, spiritually, sexually, or mentally as a result of what happened, we want you to know that there is help available whether that be through counselling, support groups, or further reading.
- Experiencing greater healing and freedom from sexual trauma is a journey, often with peaks and valleys. It is never linear. Many find that the journey is made more bearable when shared with a supportive friend or partner, therapist, support group, elder, or spiritual director.
- See “Finding a Good Therapist” for things to consider when looking for a counsellor.
- Nearly all provinces have resources for those who have experienced sexual assault. See list.