It's not your fault

  • What is sexual assault? (link)
  • What to do after sexual assault? (link)
  • Common reactions after sexual assault (link)
  • How to support someone after sexual assault (link)
  • How to respond to a disclosure? (link)
  • How to make a report or referral (link)
  • Reporting and Referral Form (link)
  • More definitions of sexual assault (link)

WHAT IS SEXUAL ASSAULT?

Mount Allison University’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Policy says that sexual assault is any kind of sexual contact without mutual consent. It may include unwanted kissing, fondling, oral or anal sex, intercourse, or other forms of penetration. Find more specific definitions of consent and other types of sexual assault under the definitions tab.

WHAT TO DO AFTER SEXUAL ASSAULT

Here is a chart showing what to do after sexual assault. The written procedures, contact information and more follow the chart.

 Sexual Assault Flow Chart

WHAT TO DO AFTER SEXUAL ASSAULT?

Immediately after an assault

Ask for help, make a call:Share_can_help

  • 911
  • SHARE is available to students 24 hours a day at (506) 540-7427 or share@mta.ca
  • Friends or family
  • Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre 24 hour crisis line (506) 454-0437 www.fsacc.ca  

Police

  • Call 911
  • For daytime inquiries about rights and procedures call (506) 533-5151
  • Police provide advice and support
  • Police can take a statement
  • Police can assist with transportation to hospital

You can go to the hospital first. If you choose, you may call police from the hospital or hospital staff may offer you the option to have police called.

Hospital

  • Receive care for physical injuries
  • Screen for STIs/pregnancy
  • Collect evidence — if possible, do not shower or clean up. Do not change clothes. Hospital staff can collect evidence using a rape kit. A police officer may be present for evidence collection.

You have the right to have a friend, family or other support person with you at the hospital.

You have the right to be informed of procedures and to give your consent to any procedure.

 

Days after an assault

  • Take care of your physical and emotional well being. Try to eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise. Remember that this was not your fault and you are not alone.
  • Learn about common reactions to trauma. Everyone is different, but it is good to understand what you might expect and know that others have experienced similar reactions.
  • Let others help. Friends and family can offer support by listening to you, keeping you company, walking to class with you, or going with you to appointments.
  • Health Services in the Wellness Centre can provide health services by appointment such as checking for injuries, STI and pregnancy testing and help you find additional health resources. The nurse educator works closely with the SANE nurse at the Moncton City Hospital to provide follow-up services with respect to STI screening and treatment, medication and after care.

Months after an assault

  • Recovery is an ongoing gradual process. Understand common reactions after trauma. Some symptoms may appear months after an assault.
  • Reach out to your personal support network of friends and family. Find a support group. S.H.A.R.E. works with mental health professionals in the Wellness Centre and in the community to offer support groups for members of the Mount Allison community.
  • Call SHARE They are experienced in helping individuals who have been sexually assaulted. They are familiar with the physiological and psychological effects that traumatic events cause. They can help you work through your emotions and teach you coping skills. Learn more about mental health.
  • Make an appointment with a personal counsellor to learn coping skills.

COMMON REACTIONS AFTER SEXUAL ASSAULT

 
common_reactionsAfter a sexual assault you may experience a range feelings, thoughts and behaviours. The sexual assault experience is distressing. The unexpectedness of the incident will evoke stress because it undermines one's trust in normalcy — one can never quite believe in an ordered existence anymore. Other incidents that can cause these feelings may include burglary, a physical attack, or an accident.

Signs of severe stress may not appear for days, weeks, or months after the event. Other people may be affected too. Witnesses, friends, relatives, residence staff, and others may experience similar stress. This is called "vicarious trauma".

  

Why does it occur?

Stress and trauma is the way our minds and bodies 'processes' a traumatic event, to try to make sense of it, so that we can eventually react to it in a less distressing way. The processing is often made apparent through physical, emotional, and psychological signs such as:

  • recurrent intrusive recollections of the event
  • changes in sleep (e.g. not being able to sleep, or wanting to sleep all the time)
  • recurrent vivid dreams about the event
  • feeling or behaving as if the event were happening again
  • changes in behaviour (e.g. short temper)
  • changes in feelings about yourself (e.g. feeling useless)
  • numbed responses
  • changes in work effectiveness (e.g. poor concentration)
  • reduced interest in the external world (e.g. feelings of detachment and estrangement)
  • a sense of always needing to be ultra-alert
  • a sense of being vulnerable, leading to a fear of losing control
  • avoidance of activities and / or places which arouse recollections of the event
  • forgetting an important aspect of the event
  • guilt at surviving, or for not having done things

Many people who have experienced sexual assault develop symptoms of depression. Thirty per cent of those in whom the condition is not recognized and dealt with early go on to develop depression. 

 

How does your body help you cope?

  • Numbness: At first you may be numb because your mind will only gradually allow you to feel the experience. So the event may feel unreal, as if it couldn't have happened to you. But as you allow your experiences to become more real in your mind, there is a need to think about the event, to talk about it, and at night to dream about it over and over again.
  • Activity: To be active, maybe through helping and giving to others, may give some relief. And doing things routinely can give a sense of bringing life back to normal.

But both of these 'natural' ways of coping have inherent risks. Some people seek refuge in numbness by avoiding any reminder of the trauma and so it is never dealt with. And over-activity is also a way of diverting attention from the fact that you might need help yourself.

How can you help yourself?

Keep in touch with information about the event and any developments. This keeps the experience 'real' and helps you come to terms with what has happened and how it has affected you.

It can be a relief to receive other people's physical and emotional support, even though part of you might want to reject it as part of wanting to deny what has happened. Sharing with others who have had similar experiences can feel good, barriers can break down, and close relationships develop.

As well as being with other people, you will sometimes want to be alone in order to deal with your feelings: privacy (as opposed to isolation) is important.

Some Do's and Don'tsdos_and_donts

  • Don't: bottle up feelings
  • Do: express your emotions
  • Don't: avoid talking about what happened
  • Do: take opportunities to review the experience with yourself and others
  • Don't: let embarrassment stop you giving others as well as yourself the chance to talk
  • Do: take time out to sleep, rest, think, and be with close friends and family
  • Don't: expect the memories to go away: the feelings will stay with you for a considerable time
  • Do: express your needs clearly and honestly to friends, family, tutors, colleagues etc.
  • Do: try to keep your life as normal as possible after the experience
  • Do: be careful: accidents are more common after experiencing severe stress.

When to seek further help

  • if you feel disturbed by intense feelings or body sensations that you can no longer tolerate
  • if you think that your emotions are not falling into place, and that you feel very tense, confused, empty, or exhausted
  • if after a month you continue to be numb and do not have appropriate feelings, or you have to keep active in order not to feel distressed
  • if you continue to have nightmares and poor sleep
  • if you have nobody with whom to share your feelings and you feel the need to do so
  • if your relationships seem to be suffering, or sexual problems develop
  • if you have accidents
  • if you smoke, drink or take medication to excess since the event
  • if your school performance suffers

Where to seek further help

  • The Wellness Centre offers counseling services to help with any loss of cognitive skills such as the ability to think clearly, to conceptualize, to concentrate and to remember. Make an appointment with a counselor to discuss how best to manage your work.
  • SHARE can offer you an opportunity to try to make sense of what is happening to you, and to try to think of how you want to deal with what you feel and think and whether you wish to report and take action to deal with the person who hurt you.
  • The nurse educator and doctors who work at the Wellness Centre can and discuss whether there is any medication which might help you cope with some of the symptoms.

MORE DEFINITIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT

SEX WITHOUT CONSENT
It is a sexual assault to have sex with a person who does not give consent or who is unable to consent for any reason including being threatened, intimidated, coerced, or incapacitated because of the use of alcohol or other drugs.

Sexual assault” is a broad term that includes but is not limited to “rape.” Sexual assault is any form of non-consensual sexual activity. Rape is a term that describes forced sexual intercourse only.

Stranger Sexual Assault is the sexual assault of a person by someone who the victim does not know. It is important to note that sexual assaults are usually committed by people known to the victim. In fact, 78% of sexual assaults are committed by a person the victim knew prior to the assault. Strangers commit only 22% of sexual assaults. Still, stranger sexual assaults do occur and it is important to be aware of your surroundings and the people around you and to trust your instincts.

Acquaintance Sexual Assault is the sexual assault of a person by someone known to the victim, but not a romantic interest. Acquaintance sexual assault can be committed by anyone: a friend, co-worker, boss, teacher, neighbour, plumber... In acquaintance sexual assault the attacker often uses coercion, threats and/or strength to wear down or overpower their victims. It is more difficult for a person to recognize danger in some you know than in a stranger. People feel safe with someone they know; they are not on guard or prepared to fight back.

Date Sexual Assault is the sexual assault of a person by someone known to the victim, and seen as a romantic interest. In this form of sexual assault, both parties initially choose to be together. There may be sexual expectations, however at some point during a "date" or “hook up” where coercion is used in response to the victim's resistance or refusal to engage in sexual activity. The assault may take the form of pressure, threats or physically forcing someone into sexual activity. 

Sexual assault can happen by and to persons of any sex or gender but date sexual assault is commonly male to female because men are taught to think of sex as a game of conquest. Points are given for the more times they "score.". Men may believe that when a woman says "no" she is playing a game; she really means, "yes" but wants to be convinced. Date rape may also occur because the aggressor believes in "justifiable rape"; that if a woman acts, dresses, or says particular things the man is justified in raping her. But no one deserves to be raped. Regardless of how turned on, frustrated or angry the person is, he is responsible for controlling his actions.

Relationship Sexual Assault is the sexual assault of a person by a partner in a long-term romantic relationship. This form of sexual assault is often connected with other forms of intimate partner violence (abuse). Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse may also be present in the relationship.

 

HOW TO SUPPORT SOMEONE WHO DISCLOSES SEXUAL ASSAULT

WHAT TO DO AFTER DISCLOSURE

1. Minimize trauma and take reports of sexual assault seriously

  • find a place to talk that is quiet, private, and where you will not likely be interrupted
  • believe the person — show them you are taking them seriously
  • do not hurry or interrupt them — let them feel like they are in control
  • do not probe for details about the incident, focus on what they want to tell you
  • offer to contact a member of their support network (friend, family member, staff, or service on campus, etc.)
  • avoid physical contact unless they initiate
  • avoid terms like “victim” or “survivor” unless they use them

NEVER respond by:

  • Asking “why” questions or other questions that might imply blame. (i.e. “Why didn’t you yell,” “What were you doing there?”)
  • Blaming or judging the individual’s actions. (i.e. “You shouldn’t have had so much to drink”)
  • Dismissing the individual’s feelings or minimizing their experience. (i.e. “You should just forget about it”)
  • Trying to “fix” the problem. (i.e. pressuring them to report and/or telling them what to do)

2. You do not have to have all the answers.

If someone is disclosing to you, it typically means that you are someone they trust and oftentimes they just want to be heard. Don’t be afraid to tell them that you don’t know the answers, and use that as a point for referral. Ask the individual what they would like to do, and how you can help. Do not take control of the situation or try to make decisions for them. Tell the individual about campus and off campus resources. Encourage the person to get appropriate support.

Above all, do no harm. Sometimes, when individuals feel overwhelmed by just having heard a person’s report of sexual assault, they will feel stressed to do something. When this occurs, they could unintentionally say things that could be hurtful to the individual making the report. Remember, if you do not know what to say, you do not have to say anything.

 

HOW TO MAKE A REPORT OR REFERRAL

An important part of being helpful to someone reporting sexual assault is providing information about options and resources. You may do this by helping the individual get connected with one or more of the services listed under resources. On campus, SHARE is a team of service providers who are trained to respond and provide support after sexual violence. The SHARE advisor can help individuals understand and identify the service best for them. Contact 540-7427 or share@mta.ca

What to say when making a referral

  • I am here to listen to and support you, but it would also be helpful for you to talk to someone who has specialized knowledge in this area.
  • You can talk to SHARE anonymously to get information or support.
  • Even if you don’t know what you want to do right now, it can be helpful to talk to SHARE about your options.
  • I would be happy to go with you to talk to SHARE.
  • What would make it feel safe for you to go talk to SHARE?
  • You don’t have to call or visit SHARE if you want to make a direct appointment to talk to one of the other service providers listed under Resources
  • Ask for permission to submit a Report Form in order to inform SHARE that someone happened. The survivor’s name is not required. This allows maintenance of statistics to assess campus safety, need for education programs, etc.