It wasn't your fault.

One of the worst things about valentine's day is the high rate of sexual assault associated with it. We've heard from people who work with survivors of sexual assault who say they have an increase in women coming in after v-day. Unfortunately, considering over 95% of sexual assaults in Edmonton last year were committed by someone known to the survivor, it's not that surprising. If you have been sexually assaulted, first - know that it was not your fault. No one can be responsible for another person's actions and there was nothing you did to cause or deserve this. It was not your fault.

Know that you can report it without having to talk to the police. If it has been less than seven days since the assault, you can go to several emergency rooms in the city (see below) and be attended to by the Sexual Assault Response Team. Each SART is made up of nurses who are trained to help you. They will not judge you. They will not blame you. They will examine you, make sure you're physically ok, help you prevent pregnancy and contraction of an STI/STD and take evidence. You don't have to report the assault to the police. If you do decide to report, the evidence collected can help your case.

The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton and the Sexual Assault Centre at the University of Alberta both provide third-party reporting. This means you can report the assault, but you don't have to talk to a police officer and you don't have to give the police your name. They fill out the same form a police officer would and this type of reporting allows the police to collect statistical information on assault, but more importantly, it will flag the perpetrator's name. If that person is reported by someone else, your report can help strengthen their case. There is no time limit on reporting.

If you feel comfortable, you can also call the police or go to the police station. You can find information on how to report and what to expect when they interview you on the EPS website.

Find someone to talk to. It can be difficult to disclose to even your closest friends and family. Our society has really messed up ideas about sexual assault and leans towards victim blaming. This means that sometimes if you do tell someone you trust they might say hurtful things, they might make you feel like there was something you shouldn't have done or could have done. That's not cool. Nothing you were doing invited sexual assault. It was not your fault.

If you need more support, you can contact the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton or the Sexual Assault Centre of the University of Alberta. If you are outside of Edmonton, here is a list of sexual assault centres in Alberta. They all have counsellors trained in helping survivors and they will provide non-judgemental support and information.

If you want some radical inspiration on how to respond to sexual assault, check out Edmonton's own Garneau Sisterhood. These ladies have your back.

And remember,  it was not your fault. You are not to blame. It was not your fault.

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*Emergency rooms in and around Edmonton with a SART: