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Frequently Asked Questions

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is a lot more than rape.  It’s any unwanted act of a sexual nature imposed by one person on another.  It can include sexual harassment, verbal assault, sexual assault, and childhood sexual abuse.  Even things like sexist jokes or using violent and disrespectful language contributes to a culture that condones and supports sexual violence.  It can happen between heterosexual or same-sex couples and occurs in married, common-law and dating relationships.

Are the majority of sexual assaults committed by strangers?

While there are certainly instances of sexual assault being perpetrated by strangers, the vast majority of sexual violence happens at the hands of someone the victim knows and often loves. It could be a friend, partner or someone you work with. And the lines are often blurry and confusing, especially in a dating relationship.

Is sexual assault a crime of passion when someone loses control?

Sexual violence is not about lust, uncontrollable desire or having had a few too many drinks. It’s about one person exerting power and control over another. And it’s a result of a society that promotes inequalities including gender inequality between men and women, which leads to the abuse and oppression of women and children. 

What about the outfits that women wear?  They’re asking for it...

No one asks to be raped.  And just because you paid for dinner, you’re in a relationship, or you had sex last week doesn’t mean that you can assume anything. Rather than blame the victim, we might ask why someone would choose to violate someone else in that way. We all need to take responsibility for our choices and actions. Ask for consent, every step of the way.

If someone isn’t hysterical and crying, then have they really been sexually assaulted?

Victims of sexual violence can react in very different ways.  Some people cry easily, are jumpy and fearful, have difficulty focusing or experience flashbacks, while others are numb and turn off emotionally. These are all normal responses that usually lessen over time but often not without some kind of professional support. And the absence of physical injuries doesn’t mean an assault didn’t take place. Sometimes violence consists of threats or the presence of weapons that don’t leave obvious marks instead emotional injury.

If someone doesn’t struggle, have they still been sexually assaulted?

Some victims of sexual assault do struggle or resist, but others are too afraid, have been coerced, intimidated or threatened, or realize that their size and strength makes resistance difficult.  Others are in a dating relationship and may feel they owe their partner.  The issue isn’t resistance, but rather consent - and ensuring that you get clear consent at every step.

Is it only women who experience sexual violence?

Statistics show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. There are pervasive myths that men can’t be sexually victimized, that male perpetrators are homosexual, that if men experience sexual arousal or erection from the encounter then they must have liked it, that men are less traumatized by sexual abuse than women, among others. These false beliefs are deeply harmful and often result in disabling shame that undermines mens' ability to seek help.  Sexual victimization is an extremely traumatic experience for anyone regardless of gender and men often face even greater barriers to support due to suspicion, ridicule and disbelief.  This results in little space for men to be vulnerable and ask for the help that they need. 

Are some women more likely than others to be sexually assaulted?

Women with disabilities and those from marginalized, racial, sexual and socio-economic groups are more vulnerable to sexual violence. 83% of women with disabilities, for example, will be sexually abused in their lifetime (Liz Stimpson and Margaret Best, 1991, Courage Above All: Sexual Assault against Women with Disabilities). Sexual violence is highly traumatic for anyone, including sex trade workers, and has a detrimental and lifelong impact.

What services does SACL provide to survivors of sexual violence?

SACL provides individual and group counselling to women 15 years of age and older, in addition to crisis intervention and stabilization through their 24-hour crisis line, which supports both men and women survivors. Further, we also do advocacy and accompaniments to the hospital, courts, police and sexual assault related appointments. Community referrals are made for male survivors and for female survivors under the age of 15.  

How much do your services cost?

Services for survivors of sexual violence are confidential and free of charge. 

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