Ten things to know about sexual assault in Kitchener and Waterloo

What are ten things you should know about sexual assault in Kitchener and Waterloo?

1) Sexual assault is defined in clear terms. For instance, any sort of sexual conduct that is exercised without consent through the means of manipulation, coercion, violence, authority, abuse or other method is clearly defined as sexual assault under the Criminal Code of Canada.

2) Sexual assault is more prevalent than the public may think. According to substantiated statistics, one in four women and one in six men are victims of sexual assault. In addition, the most common perpetrators are individuals who are previously known to the sexual assault victim.

3) Sexual assault involving a child is unfortunately common. According to the statistics, one in five children will or have been sexually assaulted before the age of 18. Again, the most common perpetrators are individuals who are already known to either the parents or child before the sexual misconduct takes place.

4) The damage to the victim from a sexual assault encounter is tremendously damaging both physically, emotionally and even socially. For example, the victim may experience bodily injuries or physical pain after the sexual misconduct occurs (e.g. bruising, nausea, STDs, headaches etc.). Moreover, severe emotional trauma can last for years and even decades after a sexual assault takes place (e.g. trouble sleeping, paranoia, untrusting, depression, and other mental traumas). In addition, social damage can be in the form of isolation from a lack of enjoyment with friends or family.

5) There exists a misconception with sexual assault among society in general. To some extent, society may view a sexual assault victim in negative terms as they were, “asking for it”, “they should have just stayed home” or “they ruined the individual’s life who was accused”. These false perceptions compound the negative effects associated with a victim who is sexually assaulted.

6) The blame for the post-traumatic ailments are known to some extent to be applied mainly to the victim and not the accused. The stigmatizing label associated with sexual assault often leads a victim to suffer in silence, which can cause detrimental outcomes (e.g. self-harm and even suicide).

7) Suffering in silence is common for sexual assault victims. Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes because of the shame and stigma that is applied to the victim. Many victims fear court proceedings as it often causes the victim to relive the traumatic experience while being direct and cross-examined by the defense counsel and prosecutor.

8) It is very important to understand and abide by the principle of consent for everyone. There are three main criteria to judge whether a sexual encounter is a sexual assault or consensual act. First, are both parties of age to consent to sexual activity? Second, do the parties involved possess the ability to consent? Thirdly, did both parties mutually agree to engage in sexual conduct? If any of these three criteria is met with a “NO” then it will likely be the case of a sexual assault.

9) Even the bible references sexual assault. The simple explanation is that the bible labels sexual assault as a sin to anyone who engages (i.e. sexual assault is a clear violation of God’s law).

10) It is absolutely crucial that victims of sexual assault are well aware that it was not their fault. A useful way to communicate this statement to the victim is to consistently remind them that they did not deserve this, they are now safe, and that they are strong individuals. After reviewing the ten aspects associated with sexual assault, one can develop their own confidence on the subject and help educate others and assist victims more accurately.

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