Sexual assault is a crime, and as with other types of crime, there is a process that can help survivors navigate what comes after the incident. From what you can do immediately after the assault, to what can be expected during an investigation, we will use an Information Guide for all Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault made by the Victim Services Unit of the Halton Regional Police Service to take a look at the process to help survivors understand what can be expected.
To begin with, survivors have three main options following the assault; reporting, complete a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit, and taking no action.
The first option, reporting, can involve the survivor, or anyone helping the survivor, calling the police. Reporting the assault to the police includes an individual giving a statement to the police explaining what happened to the best of their abilities at the time. Once the assault has been reported, you may be met by a member of the Victim Services Unit. This unit will provide survivors with the necessary information needed to move forward.
Once you have spoken with the Victim Services Unit, you will be given the option of providing a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (SAEK) which can later be used as evidence in a trial. The SAEK contains different supplies to help collect evidence which may be analyzed by the Centre of Forensic Sciences. This evidence is collected by a trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) at the Hospital. This process can be guided by the survivor and takes place in a specialized area of the Hospital.
In this option, it is recommended that you do not wash the clothing or bedding that was present at the time of the assault so that if there is any forensic evidence available, it is not washed away.
2. THE KIT
The second option is to complete the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit which is a kit that contains different supplies to help collect evidence which may be analysed by the Centre of Forensic Sciences. In this option, if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can access Nina’s Place through the Emergency Department at Joseph Brant Hospital 24/7 or any other Emergency Department in Halton. If accessing another hospital in Halton due to a recent sexual assault or domestic violence situation, you will be medically cleared by an Emergency Room Physician and provided with transportation to Joseph Brant Hospital free of charge.
Nina’s Place has a team of specially trained nurses and social workers who are experienced in providing care to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. At Nina’s Place you will be offered options of care such as: Emergency Medical and Nursing Care, pregnancy testing and providing “the morning after pill”, testing and treatment of STI’s (sexually transmitted infections) and giving antibiotics to prevent STI’s, giving HIV prevention medication, giving hepatitis B vaccinations, crisis intervention, safety planning, collection of Forensic Evidence (Sexual Assault Evidence Kit), forensic documentation and photography of injuries, providing information about navigating the legal system and reporting options, counselling/referral to community resources and follow up care. At Nina’s Place the victim/survivor guides their own care, they can accept all, or parts of service provided. They are committed to providing services with dignity and respect to all individuals, while striving to support, welcome, and advocate for survivors of all genders, sexualities, races, abilities, religions, and cultural backgrounds.
3. COMMUNITY SUPPORT
The third option that survivors have is to reach out to community partners and supports. Survivors do not have any obligation to report the incident, however it is recommended that survivors reach out to other community resources or supports to help. This can include friends and family, trained counsellors, family doctors, LGBTQ community resources, and community sexual assault resource staff.
What Comes Next?
After choosing to report, complete the kit, or take no action, what comes next? In the case of both the first two options, survivors can choose to proceed with reporting the assault to the police. With the other option of taking no action, it is recommended that survivors reach out to other community supports to help take them through a process suited to the situation.
The police, after being dispatched to the location of the incident, will arrive and start assessing the survivors physical and emotional condition. This will help them decide if the survivor should be transferred to the hospital.
After assessing the survivor’s mental and physical condition, the officers will work with them to ascertain their identity, background, gender identification, faith, culture, ability, and anything else that can be helpful. Survivors also have the option to choose a gender of the police officer they are going to be interacting with for their own comfort.
Officers will also privately discuss what happened with survivors to better understand the situation. Along with this, the officers will secure the location in order to preserve and protect the physical evidence.
The officers will then inform the survivors of the various options for obtaining support including the Victim Services Unit, and other crisis intervention supports.
If the suspect is there when the police arrive, and there is enough information to support an arrest, the suspect will be arrested and taken to the police station for further investigation.
It is important to remember that anyone can be sexually assaulted, this includes those working in the sex trade industry. If you are a sex trade worker, and you have been sexually assaulted by a client, or anyone else, you will not be arrested. Being a sex trade worker is not against the law, and no means no regardless of one’s work.
Once a sexual assault has been reported, they will be investigated by officers who have been trained in the area of sexual assault investigations. This means that there will be a focus on carrying out a consistent and thorough investigation where the needs of the victims and witnesses are fully respected.
Once the investigation has started, a Sexual Assault Investigator/Detective will be assigned and will work to investigate the incident fully. Throughout the process the survivor may be asked questions that seem repetitive, or judgmental, however they are only meant to obtain as much information as possible for the investigation. Some questions may include “What were you wearing at the time?”, or “How much alcohol had you consumed?”. Though these seem judgmental in nature, they are only asked for clarification and to prevent future questioning.
As a survivor, you have access to the necessary medical care and the support of the Victim Services Unit every step of the way. During the trial, you can have the assistance of a support person of your choosing for any support you may need.
Proceeding Without Survivor Participation
If a survivor wishes to proceed and make a statement to the police, but does not wish to participate in the court process there may be two options:
- The police may have the option to formally caution the suspect for sexual assault. A caution may or may not prevent further incidents in the future but can be used to collect statistical data. The caution is noted in a local police occurrence.
- You may also ask the police to keep your case open pending your approval to move forward at a later date. Delays in investigations often compromise the ability to gather evidence. In addition the Criminal Code of Canada limits the ability of the Crown to determine the court process if charges are not laid within 6 months of the events.
For further information on court proceedings, and what comes next, please refer to this guide created by the Victim Services Unit in the Halton Regional Police Service.
*Information as of May 20, 2021