Information and Resources for Survivors of Sexual Assault

We created this page to help you. It contains important information and resources for you, including your medical and reporting options, what to expect, and the supports available to you.

The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre is a feminist organization committed to ending sexualized violence through healing, education, and prevention. We are dedicated to supporting women and trans survivors of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse, through advocacy, counselling, and empowerment.

SART responds to all genders, 13 years of age and over.

On this page

1. What to Expect From Us

  • To receive considerate and respectful care from all members of the SART team including your support worker, nurse, and any police officers or medical professionals involved.
  • To receive full information about your options and the care and supports available.
  • To have the opportunity and right to ask questions.
  • To make decisions regarding your medical treatment or police reporting.
  • To have a support worker or a friend or family member present for support if requested.
  • To receive continuing care from a medical practitioner.
  • To receive support from the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre (or similar service) for future or ongoing concerns.

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2. You Are in Control

The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is made up of Support Workers from Victoria Sexual Assault Centre (VSAC), Forensic Nurse Examiners, Physicians, Emergency Room Nurses, and Capital Region Policing Agencies (as needed). The Team responds to sexual assault cases within seven days for any gender, 13 years of age and over. We provide information, support, medical treatment as well as collection and preservation of forensic evidence (as requested).

SART = Sexual Assault Response Team
VSAC = Victoria Sexual Assault Centre
FNE = Forensic Nurse Examiner
FNEs are specially trained to provide care to survivors of sexual assault. They are also trained to find and collect evidence if you choose to do so.

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3. What Happens at the Hospital

When you arrive at Victoria General Hospital, you will speak with a nurse at the front desk. They will ask you for some information such as your name, address and Care Card number.* The nurse will then take you to a private area and page a specialized nurse called the Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNE) and the SART Support Worker from the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre.

Once at the hospital, the SART Worker can provide you with emotional support and explain the medical, legal and police options available to you.

If you decide you would like medical attention, the SART Support Worker and FNE will discuss your options with you. If you have concerns please ask your SART Support Worker or nurse.

If you would like to report the sexual assault, you or your SART Worker can contact the police at anytime.

If you do not wish to speak to the SART Support Worker at the hospital, but would like to connect with the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre at a later time, feel free to contact the VSAC Crisis and Information Line: 250-383-3232.

*If you do not have medical coverage and you have concerns about accessing medical care, call the Crisis and Information Line (250-383-3232) to discuss your options.

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4. Your Options for Medical Care

Both the FNE nurse and the SART Worker will go over your medical and police options with you. Ask questions at any time or ask for clarification if things do not seem clear.

It is your decision what type of medical care you will receive. You can stop the process or change your mind at any time.

You may choose to have a medical exam, which may include a physical exam, documentation of injuries and/or medication. If you want to report to police, or think you might later, you can also choose to have a forensic exam. Detailed descriptions of these can be found on the next few pages.

After you make your decision, you will be asked to sign a consent form for the exam. The FNE will ask you some detailed questions about your medical history, such as any past illness or medical allergies.

The FNE will also ask you some questions about the sexual assault to ensure the appropriate and best medical care. The FNE documents this information, which could be used in a police investiga- tion, with your permission. Some people can find it difficult to talk about their experiences. It is okay to take your time.

If you choose not to have medical treatment at this point, you can access medical care with the FNE for up to 7 days after the sexual assault. You may choose to have medical treatment with your own doctor.

If the sexual assault occurred more than 7 days ago, you may be referred to Island Sexual Health or your own doctor for medical treatment.
Only you know what the right decision is for you.

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5. Your Options: Medical Exams

Medication Only

This option provides you medication for common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy prevention. Blood samples will be taken. Later pages have more information on STIs and pregnancy.

Medical Exam

A medical exam will include checking you medically, offering you medication, writing down any injuries, and may include both an external and internal examination. It is your decision which parts of the exam you consent to.

An external exam offers treatment and documentation for any external injuries.

An internal exam also includes a pelvic exam and/or examination of the genitals and documentation of any internal injuries.

Results from any blood tests done and treatment received by the FNE will be sent to your family doctor. If you are not comfortable with this, let your FNE know. She can provide you with another doctor who will get your results and be able to follow up with you.

It is okay to stop the exam at any point or to change your mind about the type of exam you receive It is your decision.

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6. Your Options: Forensic Exams

Available with a FNE 0-72 hours after sexual assault

Forensic exams include the same medical treatment as a medical exam, but includes the collection of physical evidence, such as hairs, fibers or fluids from your body. This can be used as evidence in a police investigation.

Please note: Evidence collection is part of the police investigation process. If you are considering reporting to police, it is helpful to not shower, change or destroy clothes, or straighten up the location where the sexual assault occurred. However, if you have done any of these things that is completely normal and does not mean there isn’t evidence that can be collected.

Forensic Exam with Police

If you would like to report the sexual assault to the police immediately, your SART Worker can call the police, if they are not already present, and they will come to the hospital. The police may also wish to take your clothes as evidence and speak with you briefly about the sexual assault at this time. After your exam they will take the evidence collected by the FNE.

Forensic Exam without Police

If you do not want to speak with the police right now, or if you are not sure if you want to report the sexual assault, you can still choose a forensic exam. Any evidence collected will be stored at the hospital for one year.

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7. Treatment for Possible Sexually Transmitted Infections and/or Pregnancy

At the hospital, the FNE nurse tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy (if relevant). Any tests taken at this exam are used as a baseline and will only show whether there was an infection or pregnancy before the sexual assault. Follow up testing is important in case an STI infection was contracted or a pregnancy occurs from the sexual assault. This is important even if medication from the FNE is taken.

STI testing is also available with your doctor or at Island Sexual Health.

Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis

What you need to know – Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are both bacterial infections that can grow inside the throat, bladder opening, cervix, and anus. Syphilis bacteria can grow anywhere and appears as a painless sore.

What you can do – The antibiotics offered by the FNE can treat and prevent these infections. A follow up test in two weeks with a doctor is important.

Hepatitis B

What you need to know – This sexually transmitted infection affects the liver.
What you can do – If individuals have been immunized they are protected, if not, the FNE can provide information about options. Ask the FNE or Doctor if you have concerns.
Hepatitis C

What you need to know – Contracting Hep C from sexual contact is rare. Like Hep B, it attacks the liver.

What you can do – A follow up Hep C test in 3 months and again in 6 months is important.
Herpes

What you need to know – Sores may appear on genitals or mouth in 2-15 days and can cause fever, headache and pain.

What you can do – If there are concerns you may have this infec- tion talk to a doctor about treatment options available.

HIV

What you need to know – Human Immunodeficiency Virus attacks and weakens the immune system. The chances of contracting HIV vary from situation to situation — from very low risk to high risk (blood contact with someone known to carry HIV). Pre- ventive treatment is expensive and extremely hard on your body. Discuss your risks with the nurse or other medical practitioner or clinic.
What you can do – A follow up HIV blood test in 6 weeks, again after 3 months, and for a third time after 6 months is important.

Pregnancy

What you need to know – Pregnancy can occur during a sexual assault.
What you can do – Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, is available as part of the medication offered. It has a high success rate of preventing pregnancy if taken soon after the sexual assault. Plan B can be taken within five days but the success rate decreases significantly the more time elapses.

If you have questions or concerns ask the FNE or speak with your doctor.

In the middle of this book there is a form to keep track of your treatment and the necessary follow-ups.

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8. Making a Police Report

It is common to have mixed feelings or feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, or fear about making a police report. In most cases, it is your choice if you want to report the sexual assault to the police. There is no time limit – you can make a report at any time.

If you have not made a report, but think you might like to now or in the future

It is helpful to write down everything you can remember if you may want to make a report in the future. A forensic exam is not required to make a police report.

If You Have Made a Report

You will be given a police file number and the name(s) of an officer or detective responsible for your case. This file number allows you to get information or updates which you can do at any time. A Victim Service Worker from VSAC can provide support to you throughout this process.

What Happens Next After a Report is Made

Police will begin to investigate your case. The police will contact you and ask you to give a statement, at a police station, that is taped or recorded. The police may interview other people who might know something about the sexual assault.

What Support is available

VSAC has people available to explore your options with making a police report as well as provide accompaniment to police. If you are interested in connecting with this service, contact our Victim Services Worker at: 250-383-3232.

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9. Common Questions about Reporting to Police

How can I get the evidence collected during a forensic exam if I chose to have it stored? If you make a police report the police can access the forensic kit with your written permission within one year of your exam.

If I chose not to have a forensic exam can I still report to the police? Yes. You do not need to have a forensic exam. A medical exam can offer documentation of injuries but is not required to make a police report.

What kind of questions will the police ask me? The police will ask what happened and then ask you very detailed questions. Some questions may or may not feel embarrassing or judgmental. This does not mean the police do not believe you; their role is to gather as much information as possible about what happened for the purposes of their investigation.

Can someone come with me to the PoliceS tation? Yes. A Victim Service Worker from the Centre can go with you to provide support and to answer any questions. To access this support call 250- 383-3232. You are also welcome to bring a friend or family member to the police station, but it is up to the Police who can come into the interview.

What about time off work, lost property, medical costs? The Crime Victims Assistance Program may offer financial assistance and other benefits although it may take some time to process your claim. Our Victim Service Worker can explain this program and assist you with the application: 250-383-3232.

What if I have concerns about my safety? If you have concerns about your safety, one choice for you is to connect with police about protection options. You can also discuss a safety plan with your support worker or call the Crisis and Information Line (250-383-3232) about your concerns.

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10. Common Reactions After a Sexual Assault

It is normal to have a wide range of emotions and feelings after experiencing a sexual assault. You may feel many different emotions and your feelings and reactions may change over time.

You might feel:

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Denial
  • Alone
  • Self-blame
  • Shame
  • Sadness
  • Grief
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Numbness
  • A sense of loss

You may experience some, none, or all of these emotions. This is common – there is no right or wrong way to react.

You might experience:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of confidence
  • Fear of being alone
  • Isolation
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty eating
  • Headaches
  • Inability to trust
  • Difficulties with intimacy
  • Not wanting to see friends or family
  • Not wanting to be touched
  • Erratic and unpredictable mood swings

Remember – you are not alone. If you need support or would like to access counselling, please call 250-383-3232.

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11. Common Emotions and Reactions

Sexual assault is a trauma and people respond to trauma in many different ways. You may experience some, none or all of these reactions:

  • SHOCK: I feel so numb. Why am I so calm? Why can’t I cry?
  • DISBELIEF: Did it really happen? Why me?
  • EMBARRASSMENT: What will people think? No, I can’t tell anyone.
  • SHAME: I feel so dirty, like there is something wrong with me now.
  • GUILT: I feel as if I did something to make this happen to me. If only I had….
  • DEPRESSION: How am I going to go on? I feel so tired and hopeless.
  • POWERLESSNESS: How will I ever feel in control again?
  • DISORIENTATION: I can’t focus. I am having trouble getting through the day. I am just overwhelmed.
  • RETRIGGERING: I keep having flashbacks. I wish they would stop. Some smells and sounds really set me off.

FEAR: I am afraid of so many things. Will I ever want to be intimate again? Will I ever get over this? I am afraid I’m going crazy. I have nightmares.

ANXIETY: I am a nervous wreck! I have trouble breathing, I am nauseous, I can’t eat!
ANGER: I hate the one(s) who did this! I feel anger towards people trying to help me.

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12. Victoria Sexual Assault Centre

At the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre, we believe that there is no right or wrong way to feel or behave after a sexual assault. We also believe that healing is possible.

It is important to try and be aware of your needs and look after yourself. Be patient and gentle with yourself – dealing with a sexual assault can be a long process for some people.

Remember – You are not alone. The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre offers support, caring and hope.
Receiving support can be an important part of healing. If you have experienced any form of sexualized violence, confidential services are available from professional counsellors.

If you are not interested in counselling at this time, you can call any time in the future and access services from the Centre (or similar service). It is not uncommon to reach out for support in a few days, a few weeks, or even a few years after the sexual assault.

To access services please call: 250-383-3232. It’s free and confidential.

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13. Services of the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre

Crisis and Information Line ‐ 250‐383‐3232

A 24‐hour crisis line is available to anyone directly or indirectly impacted by sexual assault or sexual abuse. This crisis line ser‐ vice is made available through a partnership with the Vancouver Island Crisis Line. For information about our services or referral to our programs call during regular office hours ‐ Monday to Fri‐ day, 9:30‐4:30pm. This service is TTY/TDD accessible.

Counselling

Short term (Crisis) support assists in dealing with the most immediate emotional, physical and behavioural responses to sexual assault.
Trauma counselling (group & individual) provides support as you deal with your responses to sexual trauma and heal from its long term effects.

Victim Services

The Victim Service Worker provides information and support on the criminal justice system including accompaniment and sup‐ port in making police reports, assistance with preparation for the court process, case status information, and assistance with applications for the Crime Victim Assistance Program.

Referrals

Sexual assault impacts people of any gender and all ages. The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre provides follow‐up counselling and victim services to all women and all trans survivors. VSAC can also provide referrals to other similar services such as: Child Abuse Prevention & Counselling Society for children and families; Men’s Trauma Centre for men who have experienced sexualized violence or abuse; or, services in other communities.

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14. Important Phone Numbers

Victoria Sexual Assault Centre ……. 250-383-3232
Vancouver Island Crisis Line  …….. 1-888-494-3888
Victoria General Hospital (ER) …….. 250-727-4212
Island Sexual Health …….. 250-592-3479
Child Abuse Prevention & Counselling Society (children and families) …….. 250-385-6111
Youthspace.ca (text only) …….. 778-783-0177
Men’s Trauma Centre …….. 381-MENS (6367)
VictimLink (multilingual) …….. 1-800-563-0808
1-800-Suicide …….. 1-800-784-2433
Trans Lifeline …….. 1-877-330-6366
Victoria Women’s Transition House …….. 250-385-6611
Cridge Transition House (Hill House) …….. 250-479-3963
Victoria & Esquimalt Police …….. 250-995-7654
Saanich Police …….. 250-475-4321
North Saanich RCMP …….. 250-656-3921
Oak Bay Police …….. 250-592-2424
Central Saanich Police …….. 250-652-4441
Westshore RCMP …….. 250-474-2264
Sooke RCMP …….. 250-642-5241

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