Sexual violence support
This guide, adapted from the Guide for Student Survivors of Sexual Violence booklet (available from OCAD U's Student Services Centre on the 5th and 6th floors of 230 Richmond Street West) is provided to give OCAD University students who are survivors of sexual or gender-based violence information on how to receive support such as counselling services and academic accommodations, and options for reporting, regardless of whether or not they choose to disclose their experience to anyone at OCAD U.
The Guide for Student Survivors of Sexual Violence is also available in a downloadable PDF. Note: If you are concerned about an abuser monitoring your behaviour, it may be safer for you not to download a file that could be searchable on your computer or device. Read more about covering your tracks...
What is sexual violence?
Sexual violence is any sexual act or act targeting a person’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened or attempted against a person without the person’s consent, and includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism and sexual exploitation. Sexual violence can be perpetrated both in person and online.
If you have experienced sexual violence
OCAD University recognizes your experience as a survivor of sexual violence is valid and may require support. The university understands that anyone can be subjected to sexual violence regardless of gender, sexual identity, disability status, age or race and acknowledges that instances sexual violence disproportionately affect women and trans/gender non-conforming individuals.
OCAD U’s Policy on Prevention and Response to Sexual and Gender-based Violence establishes the Student Wellness Centre as the primary point of contact for students who experience sexual violence. Through the Centre, students can access medical and counselling services, academic accommodations, learn about options for reporting, and receive guidance on formal complaint options through the policy.
Student Wellness Centre
416-977-6000, Ext. 260
230 Richmond St. W., 6th Floor
Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Urgent same-day appointments are available.
Even if you’re unsure what your options are, or what your next step should be, Student Wellness staff will discuss all options with you in a confidential, non-judgmental and safe environment. You will be respected and supported in whatever decisions you make about next steps. A student is not required to make a report or file a complaint about an incident of sexual violence in order to obtain support or accommodations from the university.
Reacting to sexual violence
Sexual violence is a traumatic violation of the body, mind and spirit. It profoundly affects a person’s health and well-being.
Each person reacts in a unique way to sexual violence. Whether one experiences some or none of these feelings, each reaction is normal for each person. There is no right or wrong way to cope or feel after experiencing sexual violence.
The following responses are experienced by many survivors of sexual assault or abuse:
- A survivor's self-esteem often diminishes after an assault or abuse. You may feel shamed, humiliated, guilty, angry, and powerless
- Your attitude toward your body may be negatively affected. You may feel ashamed, or embarrassed by your body
- You may experience physical symptoms of stress, for example: headaches, stomach problems, eating and sleeping problems
- You may feel anxieties, depression, shame, anger/rage or fear
- You may feel shock, disbelief
- You may feel disconnected from self and others
- You may feel frozen or numb
- You may feel loss or grief
- You may have mood swings
- You may feel hyper-alertness
- You may use alcohol or drugs to numb or cope with feelings or memories
- You may cut, burn or scratch yourself to numb or cope with feelings
- You may find it difficult to trust others or to be emotionally close with others
- You may not want sexual intimacy for some time
- Oppositely, you might engage in risky sexual behaviors
- You may feel that sexual activity is meaningless or empty
- You may become aggressive, angry or withdrawn
- You may experience flashbacks of what you went through
- You may experience fear of being alone and fear of future attacks
- You may experience nightmares or other sleep disturbances
- You may not be able to concentrate, or experience performance issues at work or school
Remember that responses to sexual assault vary, and can change over time. Keep in mind that a survivor of sexual assault may experience a variety of different emotions and may cope in a variety of ways. This is normal. Every person is unique. (Adapted from Common Reactions to Sexual Assault, from the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres).
OCAD U provides support to assist student survivors in processing these feelings through the Student Wellness Centre. OCAD U also provides references to additional supports in the community.
Making a disclosure
As a survivor of sexual violence, you have a right to:
- Be treated with compassion, dignity and non-judgmental respect
- Be informed about the limits to confidentiality before disclosing, referral and support options, and possible academic accommodations
- Be given timely and supportive assistance
- Determine how you wish to proceed in regards to criminal or non-criminal reporting
- Be the final decision maker about your own best interests
Disclosing and limits to confidentiality
If you decide to make a disclosure of sexual violence to an OCAD U faculty member, staff person or a student peer, you are entitled to be informed, before disclosing, about the level of confidentiality you can expect.
Everything you disclose to an OCAD U community member is confidential unless the recipient of your disclosure becomes concerned about your immediate safety, or the safety of others. If this happens, that person is obligated to notify a member of OCAD U’s Safety & Security team.
Keep in mind not all faculty, staff and students have received specialized training for responding to incidents and/or disclosures of sexual violence. OCAD U’s Student Wellness Centre staff, and members of the Safety & Security team have this training.