What to do if ...
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I have concerns about sexual assault or abuse.
Sexual assault is any kind of sexual act that you did not consent to. This can include everything from unwanted kissing, to groping, to forced oral, vaginal or anal penetration. It may include physical violence or not. Sometimes manipulation or threats are used to convince a person to have sex against their will. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, or ability. Sexual assault is a crime under Canadian law.
People respond differently to a sexual assault. Emotions that you might experience in response to a sexual assault include feeling angry, afraid, sad or numb. There is no one right way to feel. If you were sexually assaulted, there are support services to help you make decisions about what you want to do next.
Support services are for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. The services listed below also provide support and information for men and people who identify as transgender, as well as women.
Contact support services
If you are not sure that you had sex, you may be worried about STIs or possible pregnancy. You may also wonder if you were sexually assaulted. It can be confusing to know what to do. There are a number of places to get help. These sexual assault services can help you decide what you need to do to and give you emotional support.
- WAVAW (Women Against Violence Against Women) crisis line: 1-877-392-7583 or 604-255-6344 in the Lower Mainland
- VSAC (Victoria Sexual Assault Centre) crisis line: 1-250-383-3232 (Vancouver Island)
- SMART (Surrey Mobile Assault Response Team) crisis line: 604-583-1295 (Burnaby to Boston Bar)
- Victim Link sexual assault support services for BC and Yukon: 1-800-563-0808
Know it is not your fault
It is not your fault that someone took advantage of you when you did not or were unable to give consent to sex. You have the right to get support and help.
Get medical attention
A health care provider can give you medications to help prevent a pregnancy if taken as soon as possible after sex without a condom. Your health care provider can recommend STI tests and treatment if needed.
Some hospital emergency rooms have staff specially trained health care providers who support people who have been sexually assaulted. In Vancouver and Victoria, trained volunteers are also available 24 hours to accompany you to the hospital and provide information and support. Contact the crisis line numbers above to get this service.
Get tested for STIs
Getting tested will help you know for sure if you have an STI, even if there are no symptoms. Find out where you can get tested.
HIV Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
If you believe you may have been exposed to HIV, there is medication that you must start within 72 hours which can reduce your chances of getting HIV. Talk to a health care provider about whether taking PEP might be beneficial for you.
PEP is also available when a person has been sexually assaulted. If you have been sexually assaulted, go to your nearest emergency room for assessment and support.
Taking the emergency contraceptive pill (Plan B) as soon as possible and within five days of having vaginal sex without a condom will reduce the chance of becoming pregnant. Plan B is available over the counter in most pharmacies.
Get a pregnancy test
If you are worried about becoming pregnant or think you might be pregnant, see a health care provider for a pregnancy test.
Public Health youth clinics and agencies such as Options for Sexual Health BC provide support and counselling for women and their partners dealing with an unexpected pregnancy. See the clinic finder or contact Options for Sexual Health in BC at 1-800-SEX-SENSE (1-800-739-7367) for an Options clinic location near you.
Get counselling and emotional support
Not knowing what happened to you can be upsetting. If you are worried or upset to the point that it is disrupting your everyday life, it can help to find someone you trust to talk to. Contact any of the support services mentioned above to access support. You can also find a private counselor or therapist that you like and trust on http://bc-counsellors.org/. Talking about what happened to a good friend or trusted family member can sometimes help too.