These are some of the questions we’ve been asked about sexual violence, which includes everything from catcalling to rape. To see the answers, click on the question.
If you’d like to ask your own question, fill out our form here.
If you are raped and get a STI, why do people say that you should have used protection?
Rape is never the fault of the victim, nor are the consequences of rape, like pregnancy or an STI. Non-consensual sex is rape, and victims cannot be blamed or shamed for this traumatic experience.
What if I can’t say no?
Sexual violence is never the victim’s fault. Partners should always get positive feedback before any kind of sexual activity, even kissing.
Sometimes people don’t feel safe enough to say no. Or perhaps they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Or perhaps they do not fall within the Age of Consent guidelines, and they and their partner are not legally allowed to have sexual activity together.
Waiting for someone to say no isn’t good enough–that means any sexual activity should be done with permission. Anything less than a yes is a sexual assault.
Where can I get help if I feel unsafe?
If you don’t feel safe in any relationship, talk to a trusted adult. If they don’t help you, talk to another adult. You deserve support.
If you are under 16 and say you’re unsafe, that trusted adult must make a report to Child Protection by law. If you are over 16, you have the option to report something like a sexual assault.
Some things you can do if you’re in an unsafe situation:
If you are in immediate danger, you can call 911. An ambulance can also take you to the hospital if you’ve been injured.
You can also go directly to any local hospital (Liverpool, Lunenburg, Bridgewater) and ask about the SANE program. This new option allows you to take up to 5 years to report an assault while storing forensic evidence anonymously. Evidence should be collected by a nurse as soon as possible, but it can still be collected for days after an assault.
Do you need a safe place to stay? Transition houses, like Harbour House, offer shelter and support. They also help with transportation to get you to a safe space like the shelter or the hospital.
Finally, many agencies and organizations offer support for people who have experienced sexual violence, including us. Just ask.
Where can I get help if I am making other people feel unsafe?
The first step is taking responsibility for your actions, which you’ve done by noticing that you are making other people feel unsafe.
Violence is complicated. Many people who are violent are often victims of violence themselves. Sometimes substances like drugs or alcohol may a role in abusive behaviour. For male-identified people, especially those who were assigned male at birth, aggression is encouraged by our culture.
These things are not excuses for your behaviour. But getting support for something like past violence or substance abuse may be part of your journey to being a better partner.
If you are looking for support, try talking to a trusted adult including a teacher, mental health professional, or a sexual health centre.
Locally, men’s intervention services are offered through Family Service of Western Nova Scotia. People can self-refer to these supports, even youth.
What does the term “rape culture” mean?
Rape culture is often defined as a culture that perpetuates or condones sexual violence, especially against women, transgender, and LGBTQ* people.
The term was coined by feminists in the 1970s. While many people use different definitions, a basic definition of rape culture is a culture that sees sexual aggression from males as normal.
Some things that suggest we live in a rape culture here in Canada:
- phrases like “boys will be boys” that deflect blame for sexual violence
- blaming the victim for assault (clothing or behaviour)
- song lyrics and other media that promote violence
- jokes about rape
- street harassment and catcalling
- defending rapists instead of survivors
- low conviction rates and consequences for people accused of sexual violence
Rape culture emphasizes society as a whole, not individual men. Thus, criticism from movements like #NotAllMen, which argues that not all men people are rapists, does not address the issue that society often normalizes sexual aggression from men as a whole.
In fact, some who experience violence from men may be other men (e.g. gay or bisexual individuals), those who were assigned male at birth but are transgender, or male identified children.
Thus, rape culture meshes with the concept of patriarchy, a social system that sees male-identified people hold power in many important institutions such as a government, religion, business, family structures, etc.
While some people may not always agree with either the wording or mistake it with individual behaviour, it is really a concept describing the violence that is normalized in a culture.