What is a sexual assault?
A sexual assault is any sexual contact that you do not consent to. This includes unwanted kissing, touching, penetration or attempted penetration. It may happen once or multiple times, and just because you agreed to sexual contact in the past does not mean you consent to it every time. You can be sexually assaulted by a stranger, a friend, a family member, or your relationship partner.
What is the definition of consent?
Canadian law defines consent as your voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. Sexual touching is only lawful if you give your permission, either through words or by your actions. Silence or passivity does not equal consent. No one can legally consent to sexual activity in the future when they may be unconscious.
You have not consented to sexual activity if:
- you express by words or actions that you do not agree to engage in the activity
- you are incapable of consenting because you are incapacitated by alcohol and/or drugs
- you are induced to engage in the activity by a person in a position of trust, power or authority, such as a teacher or boss
- you are coerced or physically forced to comply
- you have a disability or mental impairment that prevents you from making an informed choice
- you originally agreed to the activity and then express by words or actions that you no longer agree to continue
I’ve been sexually assaulted. What do I do?
If you have just been sexually assaulted, the most important thing is to get to a safe place.
If you are the victim of a sexual assault, you have options.
You can report it to the police by calling 9-1-1.
When you first call police, a civilian call-taker will ask you for some basic information, and a police officer on patrol will be assigned to investigate. At any time, you can advise police whether you wish to discontinue with a criminal investigation.
What to expect when making a police report
- When you first call police, a civilian call-taker will ask you for some basic information, and a police officer on patrol will be assigned to investigate.
- An officer, usually in uniform, will meet with you in person and ask you basic details of what happened to you.
- With your permission, the officer will call an ambulance to transport you to a hospital.
- Depending on the nature of the sexual assault, you may be asked to have a sexual assault examination at the hospital, given by a trained doctor or nurse. The exam will help preserve DNA evidence that could assist with the investigation.
- To preserve DNA evidence, the officers may ask you to provide the clothing that you were wearing at the time of the assault.
- You will be asked to come to the police station to provide details of what happened, which will be recorded.
- You will be provided with contact information for Victim Services, or the police officer can provide a referral to Victim Services on your behalf.
- With your input, a plan to ensure your safety will be put in place, whether the suspect is known or not known to you.
- Your report will be reviewed by a sergeant from the Sex Crimes Unit. Depending on a number of factors, a detective from that unit may be assigned to your file and will continue to investigate it.
- You will be kept updated on the progress of the investigation. If you have a support worker, they can also contact the investigator for you.
Someone else, a third-party, can make the report for you.
Third-party reporting is when someone else reports the crime to the police on your behalf.
See more information about how to make a third-party report.
You can choose not to report.
You may choose not to report the sexual assault to the police or to report it at a later time. Please consider going to the hospital to see a doctor and to preserve any DNA evidence that could help investigators if you choose to report later.
If you have a sexual assault examination, it should be done before showering. Ask for blood and urine samples to be taken if you suspect you may have been drugged, and keep any clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault. Medical staff will preserve evidence and will not call the police without your permission.
See Vancouver General Hospital Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program.
In order to collect valuable evidence, the VPD works with Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). Sexual assault victims, adults, and children over the age of 14 years, are encouraged to seek the services of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program (SANE) at VGH.
The Program is confidential and staff are trained to collect evidence that can be used in court, with your consent. It is completely your choice whether or not the examiner releases the results of the exam to the police. You do not need to rush to a decision, and can request that the results be held by the hospital for a period of time and not released to the police.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program (SANE)
Vancouver (604) 736-2033 or toll free 1 (866) 884-0888