This page gives legal information only, not legal advice.
Assault is any intentional use of force against you without consent. Touching, slapping, kicking, and punching are all examples of assault. An attempt or threaten to use force may also be an assault in some situations.
Sexual Assault is a form of assault that involves circumstances of a sexual nature that violate your sexual integrity, such as touching private areas of your body, kissing, fondling, or sexual intercourse without your consent.
What is sexual assault?
'Simple' assault involves things like having private areas of your body touched, being kissed, or becoming involved in sexual intercourse or oral sex without your consent.
'Sexual assault causing bodily harm' involves sexual assaults where you are injured.
'Sexual assault with a weapon' involves the use of a weapon, or a threat to use a weapon during sexual assault. Aggravated sexual assault involves life-threatening sexual assaults, including those where you are wounded, maimed, disfigured, or your life is put in danger.
The penalties and procedures for dealing with assault depend on the type of assault and the amount of violence used. There are mandatory jail sentences for many sexual assault offences.
Can a spouse or partner be charged with sexually assaulting me?
Yes. The police can charge your spouse or partner with sexually assaulting you. There does not have to be a witness for a judge to convict a person of sexual assault.
Can I drop the charges?
No. If the police have laid charges, you cannot withdraw them. After a charge is laid, the Crown Attorney decides whether a charge will be changed, withdrawn, or go to trial. If you are afraid or do not want to give evidence, tell the Crown Attorney as soon as possible. You will find contact information for the Crown online at: novascotia.ca/pps/contact.asp, or look under 'Justice' in the government section of the telephone book.
What is consent?
Consent is the voluntary agreement to take part in the activity. There is no consent if
- you did not agree;
- you were incapable of consenting. (For example, you were passed out, drugged, or too drunk or too young to consent);
- you were persuaded to take part in the sexual activity because of a person's position of trust, power, or authority over you;
- you indicated by word or action that you did not want to take part in the sexual activity. For example, you might have said no or pushed the person away;
- you agreed to the activity but later indicated that you no longer wished to continue with it;
If the person mistakenly believed that you consented even if you did not, the judge may not convict him or her. It is up to the judge (or jury) to decide whether the accused person's mistake is reasonable and honest.
What happens when I report a sexual assault?
The police will take a statement from you. They may collect evidence. The police may want a medical record, and to photograph any injuries. The police will likely question the accused person and place him or her under arrest. The police will lay a criminal charge against him or her, if they believe there is enough evidence of sexual assault. Once you report the assault, or if you are considering reporting an assault and want more information about what to expect, you may wish to contact Victims Services, a Sexual Assault Centre, a Transition House, or a Women's Centre for support. Key contact information is listed under 'Where can I get more information?' below.
The police or judge will probably release the accused from jail before the trial after getting him or her to sign an "undertaking" or "recognizance". Usually the accused must agree not to contact you, or attempt to contact you. If you are afraid that the accused will contact or harm you before the trial talk to the Crown Attorney (the lawyer that will make the case against the accused.)
Will I have to go to court?Yes. You will probably have to go to court, unless the accused person pleads guilty. If someone serves you with a subpoena, you have to go to court and testify or the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. The judicial system usually requires you to give evidence in court in both a preliminary hearing (if there is one) and a trial.
Publication ban: The judge can, and often will, make an order directing that your identity not be published or reported by the media.
For more information on being a witness, go to the 'Being a witness' page.
Will my sexual history be discussed in court?
To have your sexual history submitted in court, the accused must apply in writing. The judge then holds a two stage hearing to decide, and must provide written reasons for his or her ruling. The media cannot publish any information from these hearings without the judge's permission. For the court to admit your sexual history, it must covers specific events, be relevant to an issue at the trial, or have significant value. Nobody can bring up your sexual history in order to suggest that you are more likely to have consented to the sexual activity on which the charge is based, or suggest that you are less worthy of belief. When deciding whether to admit your sexual history, the judge must consider the rights of the accused to defend him or herself, the potential prejudice that this information might raise, as well as your right to personal dignity and privacy.
Where can I get more information and support?
- Health care
Phone 911 in an emergency. Police and highly trained paramedics will respond with emergency medical care. You can also go to a hospital emergency department for urgent medical care.
Your family doctor.
HealthLink 811. HealthLink 811 is a 24/7 province-wide service. There is no charge to phone 811. Callers can receive information, advice, or community-based referrals. Bilingual nurses are available to support callers in French & English. 811 can also support callers in more than 120 languages through a third party interpretation service.
- Transition Houses
There are shelters throughout Nova Scotia where a woman and her child can go for safety, information and support. To find a shelter in your area, contact the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia (THANS): www.thans.ca, or phone (902) 429-7287
Every transition house has its own free long distance number. A woman can call the transition house anytime to get information, support and safety planning from a trained counsellor, even if she does not want to live in the shelter. She does not have to give her name. Interpretation services may sometimes be available.
- Go to nsdomesticviolence.ca for more information, resources and support services, including support services for male victims of sexual abuse
- Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program
In Halifax, phone the Avalon SANE response line at 902-425-0122, 24 hours, 7 days a week. Visit avaloncentre.ca/services/sexual-assault-nurse-examiner/ for information about SANE. Capital Health provides clients who have a language barrier with free access to face-to-face interpretation.
In Antigonish, phone the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre & Sexual Assault Services Association at 1 877-880-SANE. The Antigonish SANE Program serves Pictou county and the Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authority.
In Lunenburg & Queens Counties, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are available at Bridgewater, Liverpool and Lunenburg hospitals. Go to www.saslq.ca for information about the SANE program, and about other sexual assault services available for victims across the South Shore.
- Victims Services
The Provincial Victims Services Program has 4 offices that help victims when the police are involved. Phone for free from anywhere in Nova Scotia: 1 888-470-0773. Phone in Halifax 902-424-3307.
RCMP Victim Services: call 902-426-1280 or visit rcmp-grc.gc.ca
Halifax Regional Police Victim Services: call 902-490-5300 or visit www.halifax.ca/police/programs/victimservices.php
Last reviewed February 2016.