I Experienced Sexual Violence

If you have experienced sexual violence, know that it is not your fault. We are here for you and can connect you to services, help you think through options, or simply listen. Saint Mary's will support you in whatever you choose to do. You will be believed, you have options, and you are not alone.

Go to a place where you feel safe.

If you feel as though you are in danger, call 911.

  • If you live in Residence, go to a trusted friend or your Residence Assistant.
  • The Loyola Residence desk (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) is a safe place for any student whether they live on or off-campus.
  • If you live off-campus, go to a trusted friend or relative.

Get medical attention as needed

  • Go to your local hospital emergency room.
  • Or, call the Avalon Sexual Assault S.A.N.E. Program (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) directly at 902-425-0122.

Disclosing and Reporting

It is important to understand the difference between disclosing your experience and reporting it. Disclosing an experience of sexual violence is when you tell someone what happened. Disclosing your experience can allow you to get support if you need or want it, and does not necessarily involve taking action. Reporting takes place when you share your experience and want actions taken either through the university or law enforcement. It is possible to disclose, but delay officially reporting until you are ready.

If you have experienced sexual violence, there are two ways to share your experience:

  • Disclosing- this takes place when you tell someone about your experience of sexual violence. By disclosing your experience you can get support if you need or want it. Disclosing can also be just talking about your experience.
    • If you share your experience of sexual violence with an employee of the university, they will be required to complete the Sexual Violence Disclosure & Referral Form (PDF). This form will not collect any identifying information about you, but is used to document sexual violence cases experienced by our students and is for statistical purposes. Completion of the form does not mean you have to take action.
  • Reporting- if you want to take action (legal or university action) against the person who caused you harm, you can report your experience to the university's Sexual Violence Case Manager, the Avalon Sexual Assault S.A.N.E. Program (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner), or the police. During this process you can request action/support that you feel is best for you.
    • If you want to report an experience of sexual violence to the university, your starting point is the Sexual Violence Case Manager who will: provide you with university support and assistance, help you explore your support options and help you access services that can help you take action against the perpetrator. 

You may choose to disclose your experience to someone and report at a later time. This is okay. However, it is important to consider that if you want to report your experience of sexual violence (take action against the perpetrator), a forensic examination can be helpful for the prosecution of the perpetrator. A forensic examination must take place within seven days of the sexual violence occurring.

Who can you disclose or report sexual violence to?

The University

You may choose to report your experience of sexual violence to the university so a plan can be put in place to help you with university accommodations (if the person who caused you harm is another student) and/or for the university to help you access resources and supports.

How to report to the university:

  1. Contact the Sexual Violence Case Manager by email, phone or in-person to ask for help reporting your experience. 
  2. The Sexual Violence Case Manager will need the Sexual Violence Disclosure & Referral Form completed. This can be done on your own or together with the Sexual Violence Case Manager. If you choose to complete the form on your own, it can be emailed to sexualviolence@smu.ca or dropped off at Student Affairs and Services. The form can be completed anonymously if desired. You can fill-out as much or as little as you want.

Avalon Sexual Assault S.A.N.E. Program (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner)

The Avalon Sexual Assault S.A.N.E. Program consists of specially trained nurses (sexual assault nurse examiners) that provide medical attention and support to people who have experienced sexual violence. The S.A.N.E. nurses provide care through a trauma-informed perspective and are available to support your immediate medical needs whatever they may be.

S.A.N.E. nurses can perform free forensic examinations, which allows for the collection and preservation of evidence. (You are not obligated to have a forensic examination done, but they can be helpful in the event that you wish to take action against the person that has done harm.) These nurses can also perform testing for pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

The Avalon Sexual Assault S.A.N.E. Program is available at any of the four hospitals in the Halifax Regional Municipality by asking for a S.A.N.E. nurse at the emergency room. There is also a 24-hour S.A.N.E. response line that is available by calling 902-425-0122. 

The Police

It is always your choice whether or not you report the crime to the police. Reports can be made to the police in an effort to pursue criminal charges under the Criminal Code of Canada.

The flow chart, "Reporting to Police" illustrates some of the possible paths that a sexual violence case may take and is explained in greater detail here. To report to the Halifax Regional Police, call 902-490-5020 or call 911 in an emergency.

The Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service has created a guide that outlines the court process that a sexual assault case may take. The guide can be found here.

 

Additional resources can be found here.

Confidentiality is essential in making you feel safe to disclose experiences of sexual violence, and to seek support and accommodations. Before you disclose or report information to someone, you have the right to ask about the level of confidentiality you can expect from them.

There are limits to confidentiality. In rare cases, the university may be required to take action without your approval. This happens in cases where:

  1. There is an immediate threat of serious physical harm to yourself or another person;
  2. A court order is received for your records (this can include counselling records, notes taken regarding disclosure, or reports made to University Security); 
  3. There is evidence of sexual violence in the public realm (such as video posted on social media);
  4. The incident involves explicit images of an individual under the age of 18;
  5. You are under the age of 16;
  6. You are under the age of 19 and the perpetrator is a parent or guardian.

If one of these situations applies to you, you will be fully informed and supported at every step of the process.

Sexual violence can impact you on many levels and you may experience a wide range of feelings. There is no right or wrong way for you to feel or react. There is no timeline for your healing. Your path to healing is decided by you.

You may experience a wide range of feelings such as shock, fear, disbelief, outrage, confusion, sadness, despair, and anger. There is no right or wrong way for you to feel or react. All of your feelings are valid.

Steps You Can Take

  • Seek emotional support. Talk to someone. It can be a , friends, family or by calling the Dalhousie Sexual Assault and Harassment Phone Line at 902-425-1066.
  • Practice self-care. Healing is a process, which takes time. If you can find time for self-care, it will help in your healing. Here is a list of things you can ask yourself.
  • Have your voice heard. Speaking out about sexual violence and rape culture can be an empowering moment for some survivors if and when you are ready. Alternatively, you may choose to tell no one, tell only yourself, share your story in your self-help group, or confide in trusted friends or family. Anything you choose to do to survive is powerful and is your choice.

If you are a support person for someone who is currently on the path of healing, remember everyone's healing is different and to support them in the way that they want. Also remember to take care of yourself.