Contacting the Police
It is the decision of the survivor (victim) to decide whether or not to report the incident to police. A victim can also make an Occurrence Report. This is a report that the police can keep on file but may not necessarily lead to charges being laid. Please contact local police for more information about your options. If a decision is made to report, expect strong emotions to arise, for example, anger, flashbacks, embarrassment, anxiety, guilt, shame, self-blame, confusion, depression, fear, and/or empowerment. Support services are available free of charge for accompaniment to court, doctor/dentist appointments, or other community visits through the Durham Rape Crisis Centre and other community agencies. Ask a counsellor at DRCC or call our 24/7 Crisis and Support Line at 905-668-9200 for more information about coordinating for these services.
Sexual assault is defined as “sexual contact without consent” and has three different levels:
Section 271: Sexual Assault
- Prohibits forceful sexual contact without consent
- If complainant is under 14 years, consent is no defence
- Maximum Penalty: $2,000 fine or six months to 10 years in jail
Section 272: Sexual Assault with a weapon, threats by a third party or causing bodily harm
- Maximum Penalty: 14 years
Section 273: Aggravated sexual assault
- In committing sexual assault, perpetrator wounds, maims, disfigures, or endangers another’s life
- Maximum Penalty: Life
There is no required time limit for reporting, although sooner is better than later when considering the collection of evidence. Reporting a sexual assault to police may protect the survivor as well as help to protect others from the assailant.
You have the right to request the gender of the officer that attends your initial complaint and the right to request a SARO (Sexual Assault Response Officer) who is more knowledgeable about sexual assault. However, you are NOT guaranteed affiliation with one of these officers as this option is subject to their availability.
The Sexual Assault Crimes Unit is a specialized unit within the police department and these officers deal exclusively with cases involving sexual assault. They may provide you with detailed information regarding police procedures for information collection. Be aware that if they become involved in your case they may take it over and if they chose to press charges, they may proceed without the survivor’s consent.
If the decision is made to report the sexual assault to the police, they will do an investigation. The police will ask you to make a statement, in a written form and/or perhaps a video recording of your description of the assault. Police will then talk with anyone who may have witnessed the sexual assault. They will also collect evidence including a sexual assault evidence kit, commonly referred to as a “rape kit” if completed at the hospital. The police may choose to press charges if there is enough evidence. At this point, you cannot withdraw charges laid against the perpetrator. Once police have charged the perpetrator, the file will be given to the Crown Attorney’s office where the legal case will be prepared for a criminal trial.
Usually the assailant will not remain in jail awaiting trial. If you fear for your safety, you may request that the judge place conditions upon the assailant’s release. This is commonly referred to as a restraining order, which forbids the assailant from speaking to you or being within a certain distance from you, your home, or your work. Cases involving sexual assault, gross indecency, and incest include the right to request a publication ban, whereby the judge orders that your identity remain anonymous and cannot be published or broadcasted in the media. A preliminary hearing may take place and you may be requested to provide additional evidence. At this point, a judge decides if enough evidence is available to take the case to trial. With enough evidence, a date is set for trial by the judge, which is often months or even years away. If the assailant is found guilty, they may face time in prison, be ordered to pay a fine, and/or required to complete probation orders. A victim impact statement may also be submitted, which explains how the assault has affected your life and the people in your life.
The survivor may choose to seek medical attention immediately following the sexual assault, which may be provided at the hospital. Some hospitals specialize in matters of sexual assault, and provide survivors with access to a sexual assault care centre. To collect physical evidence, it is important to complete a forensic exam within 72 hours, particularly for a police report. Medical reports are not necessary for a conviction, though they provide credibility and strength to the case. Please refer to information regarding a rape kit to access the details of this procedure.
Once an arrest has been made, the case is taken over by police. At this point, if the survivor changes their mind about the legal process, the case will continue forward to the preliminary hearing. Survivors alternatively have an option to charge an abuser in civil court.
Continue reading about the court process.