General Information About Sexual Assault

About Sexual Violence

Click on this link to learn more about sexual violence and its prevalence in Canada: SV Statistics in Canada. (Source: The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres)

The Spectrum of Sexual Violence

Sexual violence can occur in a seemingly infinite number of ways. It is important to note that sexual violence is not always physical – it can be embedded in our attitudes, beliefs, and underlying societal structures. The pyramid of sexual violence below, adapted from the University of Alberta’s Sexual Assault Centre, helps to illustrate this.

NOTE: This pyramid is not meant to be hierarchical in nature, but rather it is intended to visually demonstrate the different ways in which sexual violence is expressed, both overt and covert. This list is also not exhaustive by any means, which further informs just how disguised and camouflaged sexual violence can be.

One experience of sexual violence is not more valid than another, despite the degree of bodily harm or other damage that may be caused. All forms of sexual violence can have lasting effects on the survivor, regardless of who the harm was perpetrated by, how long the abuse occurred, or any other factors. Here at the Durham Rape Crisis Centre, your experience of sexual violence is valid and above all, we believe survivors.

Childhood Sexual Abuse

Childhood sexual abuse includes any form of unwanted or coerced sexual touch, including but not limited to: fondling, exposure, exploitation, and/or attempted or actual sexual assaults towards a young adult or child. A child cannot consent to any form of sexual activity. Children are never to blame when sexual abuse occurs. Childhood sexual abuse is a betrayal of trust that often affects a person’s ability to connect and trust others.

Childhood sexual abuse can happen to anyone regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or cultural or religious beliefs. Most often, childhood sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone known and trusted by the child, such as a parent, sibling, or extended family member, another child or young person, babysitter, coach, family friend, neighbour, teacher, or stranger. Although statistics tell us that the majority of abusers are heterosexual men, women can also be abusers. Some of the tactics used by perpetrators include, but are not limited to: secret keeping under the guise of “playing games”, force, bribery, trickery, and/or blackmail.

The fear and trauma experienced during childhood sexual abuse does not stop when the abuse stops. Many survivors deal with the effects of abuse well into adulthood and often report that the long-term effects play out in many aspects of their lives, such as in relationships with family, friends, and partners; feelings of shame and anger; low self-esteem and body image; addictions and self-harming behaviours; and much more.

Sexual abuse IS about power and control and NOT sex, regardless of what you may have been told.

Historical Assault

Historical sexual assault differs from recent sexual assault in that it may have happened at any point and time in the past. If you have never disclosed a historical assault, you are not alone. Many of the women that we see during counselling sessions are seeking help for the first time, even though the assault may have happened many years ago. It is never too late to seek support.

You may feel that you have no legal options available to you due the length of time that may have passed. However this is NOT the case. There is NO statute of limitations on sexual assault. You may want to contact a local sexual assault centre or police station to discuss your case and what you can expect.

Recent Sexual Assault

Recent sexual assault includes any unwanted sexual touching up to and including rape. Recent sexual assault is often defined as an assault that has happened within the last year.

If you have been recently sexually assaulted, you can receive medical care from your family doctor, a clinic, or the Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Care Centre (DVSACC) at Lakeridge Health Oshawa. For more information on the procedure for receiving medical care, please visit our FAQ section on getting medical care.

A recent sexual assault can bring up a variety of reactions and feelings. You are a unique individual and therefore your reactions will be unique to you. Some of the feelings or reactions you may experience may include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Disbelief that this has happened
  • Emotional shock or a feeling of numbness
  • Embarrassment or shame
  • Depression
  • Guilt or self-blame/blame
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Flashbacks, nightmares, and/or night terrors
  • Anxiety
  • Dissociations
  • Unhealthy coping behaviours

Try to remember that regardless of the circumstances, you are not to blame. Everyone has the right to make choices about their own body. It doesn’t matter what you wore, who you were with, whether you were under the influence, or if you began sexual relations and then decided to stop. It’s your body and you are never to blame.

Male Survivors

Boys and men can also be victims of sexual assault, and recent statistics indicate that up to one out of five men report having had unwanted direct sexual contact. Men and boys may encounter additional challenges/difficulties due to social attitudes, social constructs and stereotypes about men and masculinity.

All survivors of sexual violence have individual reactions to sexual assault. Yet, there are some common thoughts and experiences that many survivors have, including but not limited to:

  • Confusion about sexual identity
  • Difficulties expressing themselves
  • Difficulties with sexual functioning
  • Difficulties with intimacy
  • Anger, shame, anxiety, depression, fear, and/or guilt
  • Unhealthy coping behaviours

Support and referrals for men are available through our 24/7 Crisis and Support Line at (905) 668-9200.

Domestic Violence

Sexual assault may or may not include forms of domestic violence, also referred to as intimate partner violence. According to the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS), domestic violence is a pattern of behaviour used by one person to gain power and control over another person with whom they have or previously had an intimate relationship. In honour of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in November, we have prepared a resource guide that includes information about this form of violence, with links to external resources for your browsing. The resource guide can be accessed below.