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 is 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

How do we create a Consent Culture? 



  • If you’ve been assaulted

    If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted:

    • Remember it is not your fault, but if you wish to report the assault immediately call 911.
    • If the assault happened on Cape Breton University’s campus, you should report this to Campus Security who will 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 & Support

    Internal Resources

    1. Campus Security
      (902) 578-2316
      7 days/week – 24 hours/day
    2. Student Services Counseling Services
      (902) 563-1873
      Monday to Friday – 8am to 4pm
    3. Max Bell Centre
      September to April – Monday to Friday – 8:30am to 4:30pm
    4. Manager, Safety & Security
    5. Human Rights Advisor

    External Resources

    1. Cape Breton Transition House Crisis/Support Line
      (902)539-2945 or toll free line 1-800-563-2945
      7 days week – 24 hours/day
    2. Willow House Outreach Sexual Assault Program
      Support Line (902)270-5167 or 1-844-314-5167
      7 days/week – 24 hours/day
    3. 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
    4. 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. They’ll express their feelings as they feel safe, comfortable, and ready.
    • Let them talk.
    • Don’t pressure them to tell you details or specifics; they’ll 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 they understand that you believe them and their description of the events and that the feelings they have about the assault are valid.
    • Tell the survivor 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?” They might feel judged by such questions. The survivor needs to know that you do not blame them for the assault.

    Suggested supportive responses

    • It is very important that you convey the message that you do not see the Complainant as damaged as or any less moral than before the assault.
    • Let the Complainant know that they have your unconditional love and support. Tell them you will be there when they need you.
    • Encourage them to make their own decisions about further proceedings regarding the incident, such as telling others or reporting.
    • Do not give advice. Instead provide them with options, and support the choices they make. This will allow the Complainant to take back some of the power they lost during the assault, and it can help them feel more in control. You will communicate your commitment by supporting the decisions they make.

    Working with feelings

    • Recognize and accept their feelings as well as your own.
    • Do not contact or threaten the perpetrator. It is normal for your initial reactions 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 the Complainant  and towards yourself. They 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” the survivor or “make right” what has happened to her/him in the past, and you may get frustrated when the survivor does not heal as quickly as you would have hoped. Remember that only the survivor can “fix” themselves, and your role is to support the survivor through this process.

    Other ways you can help

    • Spend some time helping others involved with the Complainant to learn ways to support them. Understand that the Complainant needs a safe, accepting environment where their feelings and the event will not be judged.
    • Know what to expect from a survivor after the 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 the Complainant for their symptoms, and don’t blame all the problems in your relationship on their trauma or their symptoms.
    • Try not to take it personally if the Complainant needs to withdraw or be alone.
  • Common Reactions

    Sexual assault is a traumatic experience that can have long-term consequences for students, 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.

    Watch – Consent: Have the Conversation – A video by Dalhousie University

    A few things about 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
    Cape Breton Regional Police Services – All types of police assistance for non-emergencies

  • 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 done 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 girl consents to a sexual act, this consent is valid
    FACT: It depends on how “drunk” the individual is and whether they are capable of understanding what they are consenting to

    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, 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 truly 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.