“It isn’t a stranger leaping from the bushes,” nurse examiner says

By Millicent McKay

Feb. 8, 2016

Just weeks into her freshman year at the University of Prince Edward Island, Jane decided to go to a party with a friend.

That night in September 2014, Jane (not her real name) was sexually assaulted.

“I was just trying to enjoy the university lifestyle, so I went with my friend to this party and I knew almost everyone there.”

During the night, they became separated and Jane went looking for her friend. That’s when a guy approached Jane and said he knew where her friend was.

“I’ll take you to them,” he said.

Jane followed, but didn’t realize she was being led into a separate room. Her friend wasn’t there.

Instead, the man who was supposed to be helping her sexually assaulted her.

Cathy Carter-Snell is a certified sexual assault nurse examiner working with victims of both sexual and domestic assault.

“[Sexual assault] isn’t a stranger leaping out of the bushes. Often there is alcohol or drugs involved, which the assailant knows and he is relying on that to get access to the victim.”

There are a lot of myths about sexual assault. People will say the victim is lying. Generally there is a lack of understanding about what the victims go through mentally, emotionally and physically, she said.

Sexual assault injuries are least likely to occur if you are intoxicated. The police and the court system rely on the presence of injuries to prove the assault occurred, but that is unlikely to happen, she said.

“People say they were both drunk and they made a mistake, but that isn’t the case.”

The assailant is usually much more sober and knows what they are doing, she said.

There is the misunderstanding “why didn’t she say no?” Carter-Snell said.

“First of all, it’s about saying yes. Whoever initiates sex has to make sure that the person is willing to go along with it, not just assume.”

There are two distinct types of consent, she said. The first is enthusiastic consent. If someone if actively participating and equally grabbing you, they are consenting.

“But as soon as they put that hand up, or says stop, or stops actively participating, they no longer consent.”

The second is continuous consent. Initial consent doesn’t mean there is consent for anything later on.

“Just because you were kissing on the dance floor, doesn’t mean you are consenting to sex later on in the night.”

As well, people will say she didn’t resist enough, Carter-Snell said.

“But in fact, if you resist and you can’t prevent the assault, you are going to have more injuries because they have to use more force to restrain you. It’s a double-edged sword.”

“The most important thing someone can say to another dealing with sexual assault is ‘I’m sorry, this happened. How can I help’,” Carter-Snell said.

“Believe them. You don’t have to agree with them, there are lots of mistakes that everybody makes.

“But if you believe them and stop the lectures and say, ‘I’m sorry this happened, I believe you, let’s get you some help’, That can help prevent all the long-term consequences.”