Moving forward after sexual assault – you have options

Posted On Wednesday May 19, 2021

Sexual assault is never your fault. The blame is always with the assailant, no matter the circumstances.

As a survivor of sexual assault, your medical and emotional needs are most important. There are supports in our community to help you recover and get you back to the person you were before this happened to you.

There is no ‘right’ way to get through the trauma of sexual assault. Each person must choose what is most comfortable for them. We want you to know your options.

Medical assistance

Whether you have a visible injury or not, you should consult a doctor to avoid long term health consequences.  Your family doctor can help you or you can go to the hospital.  The Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program (SAPACP) located at the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital is here to support and provide 24/7 specialized care. 

“We can attend to your physical and mental health concerns,” says Natalie Bilodeau, SAPACP coordinator for the Ottawa Hospital. “You can choose to have a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit to release to the police or it can be stored for up to six months if you wish to involve the police later.” 

All care provided through SAPACP is confidential.  We remain open during the Covid restrictions. Please contact us if you have any concerns or questions #613-798-5555 ext 13770.

Counselling

There isn’t one way to heal and you don’t have to go through this alone. Ottawa Victim Services (OVS) can help you navigate through the system to find the most appropriate supports.

“Turning to professional support to overcome the trauma can be overwhelming,” says Melissa Heimerl, Executive Director of OSV. “We take the time to explain all your options to you. At times, community resources can have long wait times to access supports, however the Victim Quick Response Program can connect you to a trauma therapist quickly to assist you with your healing.” 

Contact us anytime.

Police involvement

Whether you are assaulted by a stranger, an acquaintance, or you are in a relationship with this person, what happened to you is a crime. It doesn’t matter if you were drinking or using drugs, or if you initially agreed to sexual contact. If you cannot consent or you take away your consent, that’s sexual assault.

“We understand talking about what happened to you is traumatizing,” says Detective Erin Lehman, a sexual assault investigator for the Ottawa Police. “The questions we have to ask will likely make you uncomfortable, but know you are not being judged or blamed. We are gathering facts and evidence to build a case so charges can be laid against the person who did this to you.”

If you do report a sexual assault to police, you control how and if the investigation moves forward, every step of the way. You have options. *  

You can file a report only. We won’t take it any further if those are your wishes. You will be given a case number. You can ask for an investigation to go forward at any time. By making a report, we can see sexual assault patterns that can point to a predator in our community. This one step, where you feel heard and believed, can help you in your recovery journey.

You may want a full police investigation. If you prefer to speak to a man or a woman, you can ask for this. Regardless, you will be interviewed by an officer trained in investigating sexual assaults, in English or French. We can get a translator if you need to report in another language. You can stop the investigation at any time in the process. If you do, it can be re-opened whenever you want to proceed.

If there is enough evidence to charge someone with sexual assault, you have two choices. Some survivors don’t want to go to court. They can have the suspect ‘warned’, which still holds them accountable for their actions. The report remains on file. Other survivors want their attacker held responsible in the eyes of the law. Criminal charges are filed against the suspect and the matter goes to court.

Court can be difficult and stressful for survivors to tell their story. The investigator will work closely with the victim before and throughout the court process.

Further info can be found on the OPS website.

If you are a sexual assault survivor, remember you are not alone. You have options to help you heal. Your wants and needs are the priority and we want to help you in the way that works best for you.

Resources

Here is a list of services available.

* If the sexual assault is partner related, the investigation is handed over to the Partner Assault Section and there may be a mandatory charge policy.