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Sexual Assault Domestic Violence Treatment Program

Remember… you are not alone and you are not to blame.

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What is the SA/DV Treatment Program?

The Sexual Assault Domestic Violence Treatment Program is a regional service which provides immediate, confidential, and individualized treatment to females or males who have recently been sexually assaulted or are victims of intimate partner abuse. Following a sexual assault it is important to receive preventive treatment against sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), and possible pregnancy.

This service is located at the St. Catharines Emergency Department.
Clients reporting to any emergency department in the Niagara Region, when medically stable, will be transferred to St. Catharines for assistance from specially-trained SA/DV nurses and caring physicians.

Counselling is recommended to all clients who are recent victims (within 2 years) of sexual assault or domestic violence. Requests and referrals are accepted through our office at 905-378-4647 ext. 45300.

SA/DV Treatment Program Offers:

Immediate treatment and follow up counselling for victims/survivors of:

  • Sexual Assault
  • Child sexual abuse/assault
  • Domestic violence

Counselling is available to all clients who are recent victims (within 2 years) of sexual assault or domestic violence.

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Definitions

Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault is any form of unwanted sexual activity including fondling, touching, and/or penetration that is forced upon another person without that person’s consent. Rape is no longer the legal term in Canada because it does not include all the forms of sexual violence. Both women and men can be sexually assaulted, even in a marriage or in a dating situation.

Consent

Consent is an active choice and the voluntary agreement of two adults to engage in sexual activity. Someone who is under the influence of medication, drugs/alcohol is not in a position to give consent.

Child Sexual Abuse/Assault

The law states that a child is not in a position to give consent to sexual activity. Child sexual abuse occurs when a child is used for sexual purposes by an adult or adolescent. It involves exposing a child to any sexual activity or behaviour. Examples include where a child is encouraged, coerced, forced or enticed into such acts as sexual molestation, fondling, sexual intercourse, fellatio, cunnilingus, exhibitionism, or any form of sexual exploitation such as juvenile prostitution or pornography.

Age of Protection (Consent) Law

In effect May 1, 2008

Where a young person is aged 12 or 13 years,

The young person may have sexual contact with a person who is within 2 YEARS of their age, provided:

  • There is CONSENT
  • The sexual partner is not in a position of trust or authority
  • The sexual partner is not in a relationship with the young person that is exploitative
  • The young person is not in a relationship of dependency with the sexual partner

Where a young person is aged 14 or 15 years,

The young person may have sexual contact with a person who is within 5 YEARS of their age, provided:

  • There is CONSENT
  • The sexual partner is not in a position of trust or authority
  • The sexual partner is not in a relationship with the young person that is exploitative
  • The young person is not in a relationship of dependency with the sexual partner

The young person aged 14 or 15 years may have sexual contact with an older person to whom they are legally married.

Where a young person is aged 16 or 17 years,

The young person may have sexual contact with any person, provided:

      • There is CONSENT
      • he sexual partner is not in a position of trust or authority
      • The sexual partner is not in a relationship with the young person that is exploitative
      • The young person is not in a relationship of dependency with the sexual partner

The factors that define a report to Family and Children’s Services are:

When the young person is under 16 years of age and the alleged abuser is a person in a care-giving role; or

When the young person is under 16 years of age and the alleged abuser is in a role of authority or trust.

Domestic Violence / Intimate Partner Abuse

Domestic Violence / Intimate Partner Abuse is a crime. It results from an imbalance of power and control over one’s partner. Domestic violence is primarily committed by men against women but also occurs in same sex relationships and by women against men. All survivors are not physically battered or beaten. Abuse can include other forms of mistreatment and cruelty such as constant threatening, psychological / emotional, sexual, financial / material, spiritual and verbal abuse. In the event of a sexual assault within the domestic situation a client has the same options as any other person who has a complaint of sexual assault. Partner abuse happens to many people at all income and education levels, in all social classes, in all religions, racial and cultural groups.

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What should you do if you are sexually assaulted or are in an abusive relationship?

You should get help as soon as possible at the Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Program, Niagara. For sexual assault, it is important to get treatment within 7 days. As a result of the assault/abuse, you may:

  • Be exposed to sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Be exposed to HIV
  • Become pregnant
  • Suffer physical injuries
  • Experience emotional trauma that can disrupt your life.

Collection of physical evidence

If you wish to pursue legal action, a Sexual Assault Examination Kit can be completed by the SA/DV nurse. The kit is the collection of evidence from your body and clothing worn during or immediately after the assault. This evidence can only be collected if the assault occurred within the last 7 days or within the last 72 hours if you are under 13 years of age.

You should not shower, bathe, urinate or change clothes since evidence may be lost.

For cases of domestic violence, photographs and body diagrams can be used to document injuries. If your clothing is damaged it can also be saved as evidence. Treatment is available within 7 days of the assault as injuries may be present.

Four options for treatment after sexual assault

(within 7 days of the assault)

  1. Medical treatment.
    Client chooses any or all of the following:
    • pregnancy prevention (Morning After Pill)
    • prophylactic treatment of sexually transmitted infections
    • HIV post exposure prophylaxis (only available within 72 hours of sexual assault)
    • Follow up with social worker for trauma counselling
  2. Medical treatment, and report to police immediately. In addition to receiving medical treatment, the client chooses any or all of the following:
    • Collection of forensic evidence (Sexual Assault Evidence Kit); notification of police to investigate the crime
    • Photographs
    • Body diagrams
    • Follow up with social worker for trauma counselling
  3. Medical treatment, and report to police within six months. In addition to receiving medical treatment, the client chooses any or all of the following:
    • Collection of forensic evidence (Sexual Assault Evidence Kit) to be frozen for up to six months. Client can decide to inform police and release the evidence at a later date.
    • Photographs
    • Body diagrams
    • Follow up with social worker for trauma counselling
  4. Medical treatment, no police investigation or involvement, submission of an anonymous third part report. In addition to receiving medical treatment, the client chooses the following:
    • Follow up with social worker for trauma counselling
    • Completion of ANONYMOUS third party report to police. The purpose of this report is to assist the police in identifying repeat sex offenders. Your name will not be used in this report.

What if the assault was more than 7 days ago?

If you were sexually assaulted more than 7 days ago, we strongly encourage you to seek medical attention from a Sexual Health Clinic or your family physician, for testing and treatment of STIs. You still have the option of reporting the incident to the police. We encourage you to access our counselling services provided by professional SA/DV therapists. This can be arranged by calling the office at (905) 378-4647 extension 45300.

Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (DFSA)

The incidence of sexual assault in which drugs have been slipped into a person’s drink is on the increase.

Individuals may react differently depending on the substance used, the dose given, the presence of alcohol and their sensitivity to the drug. If you feel dizzy, confused or have other unexplained symptoms after drinking a beverage, get to a safe place immediately by calling a family member, friend, police or 911.

If you have such reactions, go directly to the nearest hospital emergency department to receive medical help. Request a urine test to detect the presence of drugs as soon as possible, as evidence disappears within hours.

Determine whether or not you want to report the incident to the police. The sexual assault can be reported immediately or at a later date. You should not shower, bathe, urinate or change clothes since evidence may be lost. Physical evidence of assault should be collected within 3 days.

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Child Sexual Assault/Abuse

Will a physical exam prove abuse?

Most of the time, the medical exam does not prove whether or not abuse happened. The exam makes sure that if your child has injuries or other medical conditions, that these conditions are treated.

Many forms of abuse do not result in medical evidence. Sometimes, healing has occurred. Sometimes there were no injuries. In some cases, findings support abuse but do not prove abuse.

The most important reason for this visit is to make sure your child is physically well. It is important to remember that an exam with a “normal” result does not mean that abuse did not occur.

Will the exam be upsetting to my child?

Our staff at SA/DV is experienced in working with children, even under these difficult circumstances.

The exam will not be forced on your child. In most cases, you as the child’s parent or caregiver, will be in the exam room. It is helpful if you support your child and answer any questions or address any concerns her or she may have.

What should I tell my child?

We recommend that you tell your child that he or she will see a doctor. Do not stress that the exam is related to possible abuse as this may cause further upset.

Your child may be watching you. If you seem nervous, he or she may get nervous.

The doctor may need to do a blood test. Please do not tell your child that there will be “no shots”. If you did tell your child this, let the staff know.

Some suggestions that can help

Stay calm. Your child needs to feel your strength and sense of security. Let him or her know that what happened isn’t his or her fault.

Believe your child. Support your child’s decision to tell. Assure your child that you will protect him or her.

Return to your normal family routines. This includes doing chores and using appropriate discipline.

Keep a journal. Write down what your child says and document any different behaviour. Include dates and times.

Do not ask your child questions about what happened or about the investigation.

Contact the SA/DV with questions or concerns. Let the Case Coordinator, police, FACS worker, or child’s therapist know if your child has behaviours that worry you. These could include changes in appetite, changes in sleeping patterns, depression, fear, withdrawal, or acting out at home or school.

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Domestic Violence

What you can expect from SA/DV program staff

Attitude:

  • Treat client with respect, dignity and compassion.
  • State clearly that abuse is not the fault of the victim but the responsibility of the abuser.
  • Express concern for her safety.
  • Acknowledge the strength she has shown in surviving abuse and disclosing it to you.

Belief:

  • Show by words and actions that you believe her disclosure.
  • Remember that the fear of not being believed silences many women. The abuser may have convinced her that no one will believe her is she discloses.
  • Reassure her to encourage her to have confidence in her own perceptions about the abuse.

Confidentiality:

  • Interview in private, without her partner or family members being present.
  • Use a professional interpreter if one is required, not a friend or family member.
  • Assure her that you will not release the information unless she gives her written permission. (Exceptions are where child abuse or neglect is in question or where there is fear for the safety of children.)

Documentation:

  • Record information on the first, the worst, and the most recent abusive incident.
  • Indicate the frequency of abusive incidents, as well as any increase or decrease in frequency and seriousness.
  • Use diagrams and/or photographs where possible to document physical injuries.

Education:

  • Help her to understand that she is not alone.
  • Offer appropriate referrals and follow up.
  • Help her choose the services she needs, when she is ready to seek assistance.

Respect and Recognition:

  • Recognize that she must deal with the abuse at her own pace.
  • Recognize that an abused woman is an expert about her own abuse and the abuser.
  • Do not try to tell her what to do but help her understand the options available to her.
  • Do not label her resistant or non-compliant if she decides not to accept your advice; make it clear you respect her right to choose and will continue, as her caregiver, to support her. (RNAO Nursing Best Practice Guidelines, March 2005)

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Counselling

You are not alone

After a sexual assault, you may feel completely alone and isolated. You may be wondering why this happened to you. It may also feel like no one can understand what you are going through. These reactions are normal. You may feel alone after a sexual assault because the offender is someone you know and trusted. Although we usually think of sexual assault being committed by strangers, we actually face the greatest risk from people known to us.

Many people who have experienced a sexual assault feel alone because they keep it a secret. Here are some of the reasons why victims of sexual assault may not want to tell:

  • I was too embarrassed.
  • I thought people would not believe me.
  • I was afraid. The offender said he would come back and hurt me if I told.
  • I just wanted to forget about it.
  • I want to deal with this myself. I do not want the police involved.
  • My family has enough to deal with right now. I do not want to upset them.
  • I could lose my job if I told my boss.

Guys may have some specific concerns:

  • I thought people might think that I’m gay.
  • I was afraid people will think I’m a wuss.

You are not to blame

Unfortunately, even though sexual assault is done to the survivor, it is common for the survivor to feel somehow responsible. So, if you feel any responsibility you are in good company with most survivors. However, this needs to be challenged. Why should you walk around with guilt and other such bad feeling unnecessarily? Think about this…what would you say to a child who was abused by a coach…surely you would say it was the coach’s fault-not the child’s. So, try to tell yourself the same thing. But in order to be able to reassure yourself that it was not your fault you need to look at and correct the faulty blame thoughts you may have.One important thing to remember is that the offence was done TO you, not BY you. This is a simple idea but easily forgotten.

Help can be found and healing is possible

It is important to remember that although this may be an extremely difficult time, it is possible to heal and to overcome this turmoil with the help and support of others. The length of the healing process cannot be predicted and is different for everyone. There is no specific length of time that it takes to heal. Healing does come. We have come to learn that with the help of a skilled, empathetic counselor, it is possible to move through the impact of the assault. It is possible to explore and express the emotional impact that the assault has had.