Following is a list of questions we are often asked at The PEI Rape and Sexual Assault Centre. We try to address a wide range of inquiries, however, if you have a particular question that you do not see addressed below or within our website please contact us. All questions and inquiries are kept in strict confidence.
To view the answer for any of the following questions, click on the question or the icon to the left of the page.
1. What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act forced by one person on another. This includes a wide range of behavior from forced vaginal or anal intercourse to touching and kissing. It is done without consent. Sexual assault can happen between people of the opposite or same sex. Sexual assault is about power and control. Sexual assault is a serious crime. It is against the law. Sexual Assault: The Laws and Definitions
In 1983, the Criminal Code of Canada was amended in relation to sexual offenses. Rape and indecent assault were replaced with three levels of sexual assault. Some of the changes include:
- The new laws apply equally to both women and men as victims and perpetrators.
- Intimate partners are no longer immune to charges of sexual assault.
- Corroboration is not required; survivors of sexual assault can prosecute without witnesses.
- The "recent complaint" requirement was abolished. Sexual assaults can be prosecuted at any time following the assault.
Under the Criminal Code, offences may be tried in court as summary offences or indictable offences.Summary offence:
In relation to sexual assault crimes, an offence punishable by a prison term not exceeding 18 months.
In relation to sexual assault crimes, an offence punishable by a prison term exceeding 18 months, and up to and including life in prison.
is found in Section 271 of the Criminal Code. It is considered to be any non-consensual act of a sexual nature, including kissing, fondling, oral/vaginal/anal penetration of any kind, that one person does to another, or has another person do to them. Sexual Assault can be tried as an offence punishable on summary conviction, or it may be tried as an indictable offence. No physical injury is necessary to prove that an offense has occurred when tried as an indictable offence. The maximum penalty when tried as an indictable offence is ten years. Sexual Assault With a Weapon, Threats to a Third Party or Causing Bodily Harm
is found in section 272 of the Criminal Code. There may be more than one assailant and/or the assailant uses, carries, or threatens to use, a weapon (imitation or real) during the commission of the offence. It also includes sexual assaults in which the assailant threatens to harm, or actually causes harm, to the victim or a third person. The maximum penalty for Sexual Assault With a Weapon, Threats to a Third Party or Causing Bodily Harm is 14 years imprisonment.
Aggravated Sexual Assault
is found in Section 273 of the Criminal Code. It is a sexual assault in which the victim is wounded, maimed, disfigured, or in danger of losing her/his life. The maximum penalty for Aggravated Sexual Assault is life imprisonment. Criminal Harassment
(stalking) is found in Section 264 (1) of the Criminal Code. It prohibits the following conduct from occurring: repeatedly following a specific person or someone connected to them; repeatedly communicating with a specific person or someone connected to them; watching places a specific person lives, works, or plays, or doing the same to someone connected to them; engaging in threatening conduct directed at a specific person or anyone connected to that person. If any of these activities cause a specific person to reasonably feel for their safety, or the safety of someone connected to them, it is considered to be a criminal offense. The charge may be a summary offence or indictable offence.
is any behaviour, comment or gesture of a sexual nature which is deemed to be offensive. It is unwanted behavior that makes the receiver feel uncomfortable and can be coercive or subtle in nature. Sexual harassment is an abuse of power and is often used as a way of controlling or intimidating someone. It can happen in educational settings, workplaces or the street. Examples include threats and intimidation, untrue sexual comments about a person, remarks about a person’s sexual orientation, displaying sexist or demeaning pictures, and telling jokes of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment is covered by the Canadian Human Rights Code, and also provincial Human Rights Codes. Incest
is a type of sexual assault in which the perpetrator is a blood relative of the victim. It includes parents, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandchildren, and half-siblings. Stranger Rape
involves being attacked and sexually assaulted by someone not known to the victim.Date/Acquaintance Sexual Assault
In many cases of sexual assault, the offender is dating the victim when the assault(s) occur. This is commonly referred to as date rape. Also, the offender can be someone known to the victim. This is commonly known as acquaintance sexual assault. These crimes tend to be ignored, denied or not treated as seriously as other sexual assaults because the offender is known by the victim. Gang Rape
involves being sexually assaulted by more than one person during the assault. Child Abuse
refers to the physical, sexual or emotional abuse of a person under the age of sixteen. It may also include situations in which a child is being neglected or exposed to violence in the home. Anyone who has knowledge of, or is suspicious of, child abuse (emotional, physical, sexual or neglect) is required by law to report that knowledge or suspicion to the nearest child protection agency.
Psychological Sexual Violence
involves being controlled by someone else because of threats of sexual violence. Examples include, “If you date someone else I will rape you,” or “If you break up with me, I’ll rape your younger sister.”Intimate Partner Sexual Assault
is sexual assault that occurs between two people who are involved in an intimate relationship. It can occur between two women, two men or a man and a woman in a relationship. Gay Bashing
is emotional, physical or sexual violence aimed at people because they are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. Heterosexist control
is the threat to expose someone for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered to family, friends, colleagues, co-workers or anyone else.Homophobia
is the disdain some people have towards people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. Ritual Abuse
consists of sexual, physical and psychological abuse and involves the use of rituals. It can happen to children, adolescents or adults.
(Source: Sexual Assault: The Laws and Other Definitions Brochure from the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre)
2. What is the age of consent?
The age of consent to engage in sexual activity of kind is 16. A child under the age of 12 can never give legal consent to sexual activity.
- If a person is 12 or older but under the age of 14, they can give consent to sexual activity if the other person is less than two years older: a 12 year old can consent to sexual activity with some who is age 14, but not age 15.
- If a person is over age 14 but under age 16, they can give consent to sexual activity with a person who is not older than 5 years: a 15 year old can consent to sexual activity with someone who is age 20, but not age 21.
- The other person to whom consent is given is not in a position of trust, or authority, such as a teacher, a minister, a doctor, a babysitter, a relative.
There is no consent if:
- One person uses authority, threats, lies or force to gain consent.
- One person is drunk, has passed out, is asleep, or has been drugged.
Charges can be laid if someone who is in a position of trust or authority over a person under the age of 18, has or attempts to have sex with that person; touches that person in a sexual manner; invites that person to touch to them in a sexual manner.Sexual Interference and Invitation to Sexual Touching
The same as sexual exploitation except the person committing the crime is not in a position of trust or authority.
A Person in a Position of Trust and Authority:
- Has a responsibility to protect a child's safety;
- Is responsible for the child's well being;
- Helps the child develop spiritually, emotionally, physically, etc.;
- Includes a family member, neighbour, coach, teacher, religious leader, family friend, group leader.
3. What does it mean to give consent?
The Criminal Code of Canada defines consent as a voluntary agreement between two people to engage in a specific sexual activity at a specific time.
- Consent that is obtained through pressure, fear, force or threat of force (either to yourself or to someone else) is not voluntary consent.
- No means no.
- Say yes to one sexual activity does not mean yes to every sexual activity.
- If a person is a child, is drunk, has passed out, is asleep, has been drugged, or is dependent on the abuser, they are unable to give consent.
- The person must give an overt indication of consent (for example saying yes).
- Silence, passivity or ambiguous conduct, do not imply consent.
Also remember that:
- Consent is based on choice.
- Agreeing to have sex because of guilt, pressure, sense of obligation or just to fit in with the group is not true consent.
- Consent is only possible when there is equality between two people.
4. What are my options if I have been recently assaulted?
After experiencing a sexual assault you have a lot of decisions to make, including whether to tell someone you trust, and whether to get medical attention or report to the police.
Tell someone: Tell a trusted friend, family member, or call us at the PEI Rape & Sexual Assault Centre 368-8055.
Get immediate medical help: Go to the hospital emergency department to assess and take care of any physical injuries and/or emotional trauma resulting from the assault. You can ask for the morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy, and to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STI's). You can also ask about having a sexual assault evidence kit (rape kit) completed. If you do decide to have a kit completed, the police will be contacted to come to the hospital. This should be done within 24 hours of the rape.
It is your choice to report to the police. If you decide to tell the police, there will be an investigation. Try to save evidence. Keep the clothes you were wearing. If you were drugged, try to save some of the drink. Don’t bathe, douche or shower until you have had a medical examination. Keep anything that might help identify your attacker.
5. What is a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit?
Also known as a "Rape Kit" or "Forensic Evidence Kit"
- A Sexual assault evidence kit is a box that holds swabs, bags, containers and forms used to collect evidence from your body. The nurse or doctor who completes the kit will ask questions about what happened to you in order to determine what evidence to collect. The kit can take a long time to complete and may feel intrusive at times, you can refuse any part of the kit at any time.
- You can have evidence collected up to 72 hours after an assault.
- A completed kit will be useful evidence if you decide to report to the police. If you decide to have a kit completed, police are contacted to come to the hospital. They do not remain in the room while the evidence for the kit is collected.
- You can still report to police if you decide not to have a kit collected.
6. What happens if I report to the police?
- You can report the assault by calling 911, or by calling or going to the police agency responsible for the area where the assault took place. You can also go to the hospital to get examined and let the hospital staff know that you want the police to be contacted.
- If you are reporting a recent assault, take any evidence you may have. To preserve evidence it is best if you do not change your clothes, wash, shower, or bathe, eat or drink or brush your teeth. But, if you have done any of these things, you can still report to police.
- After reporting a sexual assault a police officer will take your statement. They will want to know the details of what happened and will ask a lot of questions. Your statement may be videotaped.
- The police will want to collect as much evidence as possible. In the case of a recent assault, they may want to take pictures of any injuries you may have and may ask if you want to go to the hospital to collect more evidence.
- At the hospital, if appropriate to your situation, you may choose to have a sexual assault examination kit completed in order to collect forensic evidence.
- You can still report an assault without having had forensic evidence collected. However, this may mean there is less evidence available to proceed with the case.
- The police will continue to collect available evidence and interview witnesses. They will also interview the accused if the person has been identified. An investigation can take from a couple of months to a couple of years.
- Before laying charges, police will present all the evidence to the Crown Prosecutor who will decide if there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction. If they do not lay charges, it does not mean that they do not believe you, but that there is not enough evidence to prove the charges in court.
- If you decide to report to the police you are not obligated to move forward with a criminal case.
7. What can a survivor of a recent assault expect from therapy services?
Accessing our Services
Reaching out for help, even making that first phone call, can be difficult. You are not required to share any personal information or details until you feel ready to do so. For more information or to make an appointment, please call our therapy line at 368-8055. A voice message will ask you to leave your name and contact number. One of our therapists will return your call and gather some basic information from you. From there, you will either be contacted directly by a therapist to schedule your first appointment. If you have experienced a recent assault, we will arrange to see you as soon as possible.
Our waiting room is private and your therapist will greet you in the wait room at your scheduled appointment time. Usually you will not have to wait long.
Common Reactions of Victims of Assault
There is no “right” way to act after a sexual assault. How a person responds to a traumatic event such as a sexual assault is unique. It can depend on factors such as the severity of the crime, whether the person has been a victim of assault in the past, the support systems available to the person, and whether or not there are other life stresses occurring at the same time.
People who have experienced a sexual assault may go through several stages in their recovery. The initial phase is often accompanied by intense physical and emotional reactions such as:
- feelings of fear, anger, anxiety, depression, self-blame, numbness and moodiness
- a desire to avoid or withdraw from people or places.
- intrusive memories, flashbacks, confusion and poor concentration
- nausea, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, muscle tension and headaches.
After the initial shock, a person will try to deal with their feelings and understandings about the assault and attempt to put their life back together. Support can be helpful during this stage, either from family, friends or professionals. Some people learn that, although they can’t change what happened, they are able to function again, grow stronger, and gain control over their life and feelings.
How Do I Know if I Need Professional Support?
If you are having intense reactions long after the assault, you may wish to call the PEI Rape and Sexual Assault Centre. Some signs that extra support may be needed include:
How Talking to a Therapist May Help
- Continuing to experience intrusive memories and flashbacks about the assault
- Using more than your usual amount of drugs and alcohol
- Feeling numb and spaced out a lot of the time
- Often feeling fearful
- Having difficulty in your relationships with others
Many people benefit from talking about the assault. A therapist can provide you with information about sexual assault and can help you to put your feelings and reactions in perspective. Therapy can help you make sense of the event and re-gain feelings of self-control. Experience has shown that talking can help even years after an assault has occurred.
Our Therapy Services are:
- For women and men survivors of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse.
- Free and Confidential.
- Provided by professionals who are trained in trauma recovery.
8. What can a survivor of childhood sexual abuse expect from therapy services? Accessing our Services
Reaching out for help, even making that first phone call, can be difficult. For more information or to make an appointment, please call our therapy line at 368-8055. A voice message will ask you to leave your name and contact number. One of our therapists will return your call and gather some basic information from you. From there, you will either be contacted directly by a therapist to schedule your first appointment or placed on a wait list until a spot becomes open. Our waiting room is private and your therapist will greet you at your scheduled appointment time.
Our Philosophy About Therapy
The therapy we offer happens in a relationship of collaboration. Clients are not seen as people being treated for an illness, but as partners in their healing. Clients help set the goals and the pace of their therapy.
What Can I Expect in Therapy?
As you begin to learn about the effects that childhood sexual abuse has had on your life, you may learn new skills in maintaining supportive relationships, developing self care practices, learning to deal with strong emotions, building self-esteem and developing positive coping skills.
For some people, it is not necessary to share the details of the abuse. For others, it may be important to slowly look at the past abuse in the safety of the therapeutic relationship. Often this may involve mourning the losses you have experienced. Therapy can be difficult work, as previously hidden or buried feelings often emerge. It is important to communicate any concern you may have with your therapist so she can help.
Many people have found that therapy has helped them to understand their past with new meaning and allowed them to have optimism and hope about their future.
How Long is Therapy?
Therapy for abuse related trauma can be a long-term commitment. Some people find it helpful to take breaks. This can provide an opportunity to practice what has been learned. Therapy can help improve the quality of your life. Be patient and gentle with yourself. Healing takes time.
Our Therapy Services Are:
- For women and men survivors (over age 16) of sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse
- Free and Confidential
- Provided by professional therapists who are experienced and trained in trauma recovery
What to Expect During Your First Sessions
During your first few sessions with your therapist, you and she will discuss the following:
- Your hopes about therapy and your reasons for coming
- Information about the process of therapy and the role of the therapist
- Confidentiality and its limits
- Information about the Centre and its policies
- Your rights as a client
- Any questions you may have
9. How can I support a partner, friend or family member who is a victim of childhood sexual abuse or a recent assault?
The most important thing to remember is that you can help. Here are some tangible ways:
- Believe the survivor: People rarely lie about sexual assault. The fear of not being believed or of being blamed for the assault often prevents victims from disclosing. Communicate to your friend or family member that no matter the circumstance, it was not their fault. No one asks to be sexually assaulted. Listen without judgment or doubt.
- Listen: Let your friend or family member set the pace and decide how much to share. Details are not important, so avoid intrusive questioning. Avoid questioning their actions or behaviours at the time of the assault or afterwards, as this can imply that they were responsible for what happened. "Why" questions in particular often imply judgment and blame (i.e. why didn't you leave?).
- Don't tell them how to feel: There is no right way to act and feel after an assault. Fear, crying, shock, numbness, disbelief, embarrassment, anger, self-blame, guilt and grief are all common reactions. Don't minimize what happened to your friend/family member by saying it could have been worse. Avoid telling them to "get over it, move on" or to "forgive and forget."
- Don't excuse or defend the perpetrator: There is no excuse for sexually assaulting a person, even if the perpetrator was drunk or stoned; or even if they had been dating or had sex previously. A victim may minimize what happened in order to protect the perpetrator, who is often known or because they fear retaliation.
- Support your friend/partner/family member by respecting their choices: The feeling of loss of control is often an effect of sexual assault. It is therefore important to help a victim feel that they are in control over what happens next. Ask if they want to report to police, seek medical attention or want counselling. Support their decision and maintain a neutral position, even if it is not what you would do. Ask how you can help.
- Accompaniment to police or hospital: Your friend/partner/family member may ask you to accompany them to the police or hospital. As a support person, you can be a comforting and reassuring presence. During the medical examination or police interview, it is important that you do not add information, prompt your friend/partner/family member or express your own opinions. Be aware that there will be parts of the interview or examination that are very personal and they may wish for privacy at those times. You may also be asked by police or medical personnel to remain outside the room for parts of the interview or examination. \
- Afterwards: If your friend/partner/family member discloses information to you, respect their confidentiality by not talking about it with others. Check in regularly to see how they are doing. If they are having intense reactions long after, experiencing intrusive memories/flashbacks, using more than the usual amount of drugs or alcohol, feeling numb/spaced out, appearing fearful or anxious, avoiding people and withdrawing from usual activities, they may benefit from talking to a professional. A counsellor can help work through any thoughts or feelings about the assault, help understand the impacts that the assault has had, and explore new ways to cope and manage feelings.
11. Why do people hesitate to report sexual assault to the police?
Some people choose not to report a sexual assault for a variety of reasons. They may be afraid that their family or friends will be adversely affected by reporting, concerned that they may be re-victimized by their perpetrator, afraid that no one will believe them or they may simply not want to talk about their experience with strangers.
12. What are date rape drugs?
Date rape drugs are used as an aid to commit sexual assault. There are a number of different drugs used for date rape. Many date rape drugs have similar effects. They can make you feel dizzy, sleepy and forgetful. They can make it hard to move your body. If you have been drugged, you cannot fight back during an assault. You could also find it hard to report because you might not remember the assault.
Any drug that makes it hard to think clearly puts you at risk for assault.
Date rape drugs may be found at parties, at bars or on dates. They come in powders or liquids so it is easy to pour into drinks. The drugs usually have no taste or smell so victims don’t know they are drinking them.
14. Are men sexually assaulted as often as women?
Men and boys are victims of sexual assault. In the majority of sexual assault cases, however, the victims are female. In addition, the vast majority of sexual perpetrators are male who assault men, women and children.
15. What can men do to prevent sexual violence?
Sexual assault is often seen aas a women's isue, but it is a men's issue as well. Men can choose to not perpetrate acts of violence and they can choose to challenge attitudes that support gender based violence. Though most sexual violence is committed by men, most men are not sexually violent.
1. Speak out against violence. When you hear attitudes and see behaviours that degrade women and promote a culture of violence, use your voice.
2. Be clear about consent. Consent to engage in sexual activity cannot be assumed. Build healthy, respectful relationships. Communicate honestly and openly.
3. Recognize the "three lies of false masculinity". Athletic ability, sexual conquest and economic success are not real measurements of manhood. Build on positive male values.
16. Can men be sexually assaulted?
There are many people who have the belief that sexual assault does not happen to men. This is simply not true. Canadian studies show that one in six males will be sexually assaulted before age 18. In addition, males are least likely to tell anyone about their sexual assault.
Male victims report that when they do come forward and tell, they are often not believed. If they are believed, their situation is often not taken seriously. This can leave you feeling angry, mistrustful, confused about your sexual identity, feeling guilty and ashamed.
It is really important that you reach out for help. The PEI Rape and Sexual Assault Centre is one place where you can get this help in a non-judgmental, confidential and safe environment.
We currently have a wait list for counselling sessions addressing historical sexual abuse and/or past sexual assault. If you have experienced a sexual assault recently, however, you will not have to wait, and we will see you as soon as possible.
The length of the wait list varies, and it is not possible to predict accurately how long the wait might be. We know it takes courage to ask for help, and it can feel discouraging to be asked to wait. While waiting, we encourage anyone seeking more immediate support to check out other resources that might be available, such as an E.A.P. or personal benefit program. Read More >
Supporting An Adult Survivor of Sexual Assault in PEI
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Men Matter: Group Programs for Male Survivors
A free service for men who are on a journey of recovery from sexual abuse. Read More >
Main Office 902.566.1864
Therapy Line 902.368.8055