What to do if you have been Sexually Assaulted
After being sexually assaulted, survivors may feel scared, hurt, exhausted, and unsure. Survivors may be feeling physical pain from external or internal injuries; their emotions may be in turmoil or they may feel numb and be in shock.
The following information can help survivors and their support people figure out what to do next.
Consider Reaching out for Help
The hours immediately after a sexual assault can be very confusing and making decisions can be difficult. Reaching out to a support person or talking with someone who has experience supporting people who have been sexually assaulted may be helpful.
Connect with a local sexual assault service or Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence for emotional support, information, and referrals.
Depending on the location, sexual assault services across the province offer:
- Crisis Support
- Hospital Accompaniment
- Systems Navigation
- Police and Court Support
- Individual and Group Counselling
Consider Accessing Medical Care
Following a sexual assault, survivors may have external or internal injuries that require medical attention. They may also be at risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted blood-borne infections.
Go to the nearest hospital emergency room or urgent care centre as soon as possible. If that is not an option, see a family doctor or visit a walk-in clinic.
In some parts of the province there are Sexual Assault Response Teams. These are multidisciplinary teams that work collaboratively to support those who have recently experienced sexual assault (usually within 7 days or less – note that different teams across the province have different timelines).
Depending on the location, the team can include:
- A crisis worker and advocate from a sexual assault centre.
- A nurse and/or physician specially trained in sexual assault examination and evidence collection.
- Municipal Police, RCMP, or Tribal Police.
For information on where these teams are located, connect with a local sexual assault service or Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence.
Reporting to Police is an Option
Following a sexual assault, it’s natural to feel shocked, confused, and unable to make decisions.
It is common for people who have been sexually assaulted and the people around them to believe that they are required to report a sexual assault to the police. However, this is not the case. Often people who have been sexually assaulted have many factors to consider when deciding whether to report a sexual assault, including:
- the impact on themselves and their lives;
- the impact on family members, jobs, and social situations;
- when the person who sexually assaulted them is known to them, they may also consider the impact to that person;
- concerns about what the process will be like and what will be expected of them;
- fear of not being believed.
There is no right or wrong answer when deciding whether to report to the police. We know that the more information a person has about the available options and about what to expect from the legal process, the more satisfied they will feel about their decision. It is important for survivors to make a decision that feels right for them.
- Report to the Police now or later by contacting them directly. It is never too late to report to the police.
- Don’t report to the police.
- Have forensic evidence collected at the hospital and stored. This option allows people time to decide whether or not they would like to report to the police.
- Note – this option is not available in all communities across the province and evidence must be collected within a few days of the sexual assault. Contact Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence for more information.
Many sexual assault services in Alberta have a police and court support program that can provide information about reporting to police and the criminal legal system process which can help with making an informed decision. Connect with a local sexual assault service or Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence for more information.
Video: Reporting Sexual Assault, Its Your Decision
This video provides accurate and accessible information about the criminal legal system for individuals who have been impacted by sexual abuse or sexual assault and are making the challenging decision about whether or not to report the crime that was committed against them to the police. The video includes information about the criminal legal system as well as outlining and defining the specific roles that professionals have within this system. This includes police, medical/forensic evidence collectors (doctors and/or nurses), crown prosecutors, judges, victim support services, and advocates who speak about their roles and address common concerns or areas of confusion for survivors.
There are also two survivors who share some of their personal experiences and perceptions of the medical, criminal legal, and support processes following the crime of sexual assault committed against them.
The Solicitor General Victims of Crime grant made the development of this video possible.