Sexual Violence Response & Support

Cape Breton University is committed to creating an environment that is free from sexual violence (actual or threatened), abuse, aggression and harassment for our faculty, staff, students and visitors.

The Cape Breton University Sexual Violence Policy & Guidelines are intended to outline commitments to raise awareness and educate on sexual violence, to prevent sexual violence, to reduce the risk of sexual violence incidents, to promote a consent culture and to respond to the needs in our community for support and empowerment.

This policy confirms Cape Breton University’s position on sexual violence and the guidelines to be followed in the case of disclosure or complaint from any student, for any incident occurring on or off campus by a member of the University community.

Please refer to Cape Breton University’s Sexual Violence Policy & Guidelines for options on Response and Support.

Sexual Violence Policy & Guidelines

Responding to Reports of Sexual Assault

If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted

Remember it is not your fault. If you wish to report the assault, call 911 as soon as possible. If the assault happened on Cape Breton University’s campus, you should report this to Campus Security who will inform a member of Cape Breton University’s Crisis Response Team. Talk to someone you trust such as a close friend or relative and/or seek professional counselling support. Seek medical attention, even if you feel you have no obvious injuries. If you choose to report the assault to the police, contact Cape Breton Regional Police Service.

Resources and Support

Internal Resources

Campus Security (902) 578-2316 7 days/week – 24 hours/day

Student Services Counseling Services (902) 563-1873 Monday to Friday – 8am to 4pm

Max Bell Centre (902)563-563-2359

September to April – Monday to Friday – 8:30am to 4:30pm

Manager, Safety & Security (902)565-5328

Human Rights Advisor (902)574-2350

External Resources

Cape Breton Transition House Crisis/Support Line (902)539-2945 or toll free line 1-800-563-2945 7 days week – 24 hours/day

Willow House Outreach Sexual Assault Program Support Line (902)270-5167 or 1-844-314-5167 7 days/week – 24 hours/day

For immediate, medical and emotional support call the Mental Health Mobile Crisis Unit (902)429-8167 or toll-free 1-888-429-8167 or proceed to the emergency department of your local hospital. 7 days/week – 24 hours/day

Cape Breton Regional Police Service (902) 563-5151

Supporting a Complainant

Here are some of the things you can do to offer support or to respond to a disclosure of sexual assault/violence.

Listen to the complainant 

  • Be patient and approachable. Your friend will express their feelings when they feel safe, comfortable, and ready. Let them talk.
  • Don’t pressure your friend to tell you details or specifics; they will tell you if and when they are ready.
  • Show empathy to help them to feel safe enough to share their experience with you.
  • Become aware of the parts of their experience that seem to come up repeatedly. They may represent areas that need special attention and understanding.

Believe them

  • It’s important that your friend knows that you believe them and their description of the events and that the feelings they have about the assault are valid.
  • Tell your friend that they are not responsible for the crime that was committed against them.
  • Avoid asking them “why” questions like “why didn’t you fight back?” This could cause them to feel judged. The survivor needs to know that you do not blame them for the assault.

Suggested supportive responses

  • It is very important that you show your friend that you aren’t judging them, and you’re not looking at them any differently than you did before the assault.
  • Let your friend know that they have your unconditional love and support. Tell them you will be there when they need you.
  • Encourage your friend to make their own decisions about further proceedings regarding the incident, such as telling others or reporting.
  • Do not give advice (unless asked) or pressure your friend to respond in a certain way. Instead, provide them with options and support the choices they make. This will allow your friend to take back some of the power they may feel was lost during the assault, and it can help them feel a sense of control. You will communicate your commitment by supporting the decisions they make.

Working with feelings

  • Recognize and accept your friend’s feelings, while remembering to take note of your own as well.
  • Do not contact or threaten the perpetrator. It is normal for your initial reaction to be anger towards the perpetrator. Threats may result in a legal action by the perpetrator against you at a time when the survivor needs your strength and support. Keep in mind that your anger can shift attention away from your friend and toward yourself. Your friend may feel guilty for burdening you, frightened of your rage or reluctant to upset you further at a time when they need your support.
  • You may feel it is your job to “fix” your friend or “make right” what has happened to her/him in the past, and you may get frustrated when your friend does not heal as quickly as you would have hoped. Remember that only the survivor can “fix” themselves, and your role is to support them through this process.

Other ways you can help

  • Spend some time helping others involved with your friend to learn ways to support them. Understand that the your friend needs a safe, accepting environment where their feelings and the event will not be judged.
  • Know what to expect from a survivor after an assault. Learn about sexual assault and its after-effects.
  • Be aware of the specific issues you may face as the supporter of a Complainant who was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance. In addition to the trauma experienced in stranger assaults, self-doubt, self-blame, betrayal of trust, lack of confidence in one’s own ability to make judgments and good decisions may complicate the recovery process.
  • Refrain from criticizing your friend for their symptoms, and don’t blame problems in your relationship on their trauma or their symptoms.
  • Try not to take it personally if your friend needs to withdraw or be alone.

Common Reactions

Sexual assault is a traumatic experience that can have long-term consequences for people, on many levels: academic, psychological, physical, social and emotional.

Some common reactions to sexual assault include:

  • Concentration difficulties
  • Intimacy issues
  • Self-blame/Guilt
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Loss of appetite
  • Avoiding situations that trigger memories surrounding the assault
  • Isolating self from others
  • Shame
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Difficulty trusting others
  • Hopelessness, anger, depression
  • Physical symptoms (e.g. headaches, stomach aches,)
  • Hypervigilance (always being on your guard)
  • Changes in relationships
  • Feeling unsafe in the world

What is Consent?

The Criminal Code of Canada defines consent as the voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. Consent must be an active process, without the influence of coercion. One should never assume consent.

Consent is an active agreement

  • It is not possible to give consent while impaired by substances
  • Consent is not the absence of “no” or silence
  • Consenting to one sexual activity, does not mean that someone consents to other sexual activities
  • Consent is not possible if an individual uses their position of power or authority to manipulate someone into saying “yes”

Medical Support

If you decide to report the assault to the police, you should undergo a forensic medical examination at a hospital emergency room as soon as possible, ideally within 72 hours. This will help ensure that the evidence can be collected and preserved.

If you are unsure about reporting to the police, but would like to preserve the evidence while you make a decision, you can specify this when you meet with the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). Prior to the exam, you should do your best to refrain from changing your clothing, using the toilet, showering, eating, or brushing your teeth.

Even if you have not been injured physically, or don’t want to report the assault to the police, you may want to consider being tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancy.

You can also obtain medical attention at Cape Breton University Max Bell Center during regular business hours, however, they do not provided specialized sexual assault care.

Reporting to Police

Sexual assault/violence is a serious crime. That said, it is always your choice whether or not you report the crime to the police. If you do report the assault, the police will take your statement, investigate the matter and determine if there is enough evidence to lay charges. If the matter proceeds to court, you will likely be called to testify. The court process can seem daunting, but please know there are lots of helpful resources that can support you during the process, emotionally and pragmatically.

Emergency: Call 911

Sexual Assault Facts and Myths

Dispelling Misconceptions and Promoting Awareness

Understanding the common misconceptions that are prevalent in our society along with the facts helps you better understand sexual assault and educate others.

MYTH: Most victims of sexual assault can prevent the assault from taking place by resisting. FACT: Assailants commonly overpower victims through threats and intimidation tactics. Moreover, many victims lack the capacity to appreciate or understand they are being assaulted.

MYTH: Most Sexual Assaults are committed by strangers FACT: Statistics clearly show the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone close to the victim

MYTH: Victims can easily “get over” the effects of sexual assault or child sexual abuse FACT: The effects of sexual assault are far reaching and can severely impact an individual’s emotional stability, employment and ability to form and maintain adult relationships.

MYTH: Most sexual assaults are not planned in advance. FACT: As many as 3/4ths of all sexual assaults involved some pre-planning by the assailant

MYTH: Sexual assault is a commonly false-reported crime FACT: Most statistics show approximately 2% or less of sexual assaults reported as false reports

MYTH: Victims commonly dress in a way that increases their chances of being sexual assaulted FACT: This appears to be uncommon as most assailants cannot remember what the victim was wearing

MYTH: If a drunk person consents to a sexual act, this consent is valid FACT: A person under the influence of alcohol or other substances cannot give consent

MYTH: Men are never sexual assaulted. FACT: Sexual assault is more common for men than most believe, and boys are common victims of child sexual abuse

MYTH: Sexual assault is a relatively rare form of abuse FACT: As many as 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. This makes sexual assault one of the most common serious crimes.

MYTH: Most assailants have a history of mental or sexual problems FACT: Many assailants appear to live highly normal/functioning lives

MYTH: Assailants are typically poor, uneducated or of a certain race FACT: There is no data indicating a typical profile of an assailant. Many assailants are otherwise upstanding citizens.

MYTH: It is not sexual assault if the assailant and the victim are married FACT: Any sexual acts that are not consented to constitute sexual assault regardless of the relationship between the victim and the assailant.

MYTH: The victim must show physical injuries for it to legally be considered a sexual assault. FACT: The presence or absence of physical injuries is irrelevant to the determination of whether an act is “legally” considered a sexual assault; however, physical injuries may be grounds for a heightened punishment or a finding of aggravated sexual assault.

Disclaimer: All information on this page is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific circumstance.