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SA/DVCC Care Package

Important Numbers  |  24-hour Access and Resources

Toronto Rape Crisis Centre

Provides 24/7 crisis counselling over the phone. Counsellors also answer emails.
Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Open to all genders.

Assaulted Women’s Help Line

Provides 24/7 crisis counselling over the phone to women in 154 languages. Use of a TTY line also available for deaf women.



Provides 24/7 over-the-phone crisis counselling for French-speaking women.


Distress Centre

Provides 24/7 over-the-phone counselling for people in emotional distress or suicide prevention.

Gerstein Centre

Provides crisis support for adults living in Toronto with mental health problems. Open to all genders.


Police (Emergency)

Police (Non-emergency)

Sexual Assault Line York Region

Rape Crisis Centre of Peel

Emergency Welfare

If you are not on welfare, you are entitled to emergency assistance if your health or welfare is in danger. You can get two weeks worth of assistance before your regular application is processed and without going through the usual hoops.

Wen-do Women’s Self Defence

A 15-hour course that covers a wide variety of physical and verbal self-defence techniques and awareness and avoidance of threatening situations, and discussions on violence against women. Classes are taught by women, for women and girls.


Barbra Schlifer Clinic

Provides counselling, legal information, interpreters and referral services for women who have been physically or sexually abused.


Housing Connections
416-981-6111 or 416-981-6112

A service that provides a one-stop housing solution for people looking for affordable housing in Toronto; priority given to those who are currently living in a domestic violence situation.


Criminal Injury Compensation Board

This service provides financial compensation for those who qualify.



Victim Witness Assistance Program

Call the Victim Support Line (toll-free) at 1-888-579-2888 or 416-314-2447 in the Greater Toronto Area

Provides victim and witnesses of serious crime with information and assistance throughout the court process.


Sexual Violence

Legal Definitions

Currently, the law defines sexual assault as any form of sexual activity with another person without her/his consent. The new law recognizes that:

  • all unwanted sexual acts are assaults (penetration does not have to occur);
  • women, men and transpeople can be sexually assaulted;
  • a husband can be charged with sexually assaulting his wife;
  • previous sexual history and character of the complainant cannot be routinely examined in the open courtroom.

Consent is the voluntary agreement of a person to engage in sexual activity. Consent is a clearly understood agreement between two adults. It is important to remember that consent is an active choice. The law says that a child is not in a position to give consent.

Similarly, the law says that someone who is under the influence of medication, drugs and/or alcohol is not in a position to give consent.

However, a person is NOT excused for sexually violating another while under the influence of alcohol, drugs and/or medication. A person who sexually violates another while under any influence is 100 per cent responsible for his/her actions.

There is no consent when:

  • A person expresses by words, gestures, conduct or any other means, a lack of agreement to engage in sexual activity;
  • A person having consented to engage in consensual activity, expresses a lack of agreement to continue in the activity;
  • One person submits to sexual activity because the accused threatens or uses force;
  • One person submits to sexual activity because the accused threatens or uses force against a third person;
  • Lies are used to obtain consensual sexual activity;
  • A third party says yes for someone;
  • A person engages in sexual activity because an accused has abused a position of trust, power and authority;
  • The accused is a blood relative;
  • One person is under 14 and the other more than two years older;
  • Both people are under 14 with less than two years between them, but the older person is in a position of trust or dependency (e.g. a babysitter);
  • One person is 14, 15, 16, 17 and the older person is in a position of trust or authority.

According to the law, there are three levels of sexual assault charges, which increase in severity:

1.) A person may be charged with sexual assault if:

  • you were forced to kiss, fondle or have sexual intercourse, or if they kissed, touched or used objects in a sexual way without your consent (no sign of physical injury or abuse)

2.) A person may be charged with sexual assault with a weapon, sexual assault while threatening bodily harm to a third party or sexual assault causing bodily harm if:

  • they used or threatened to use a weapon (real or imitation);
  • they threatened to harm someone else, for instance your child;
  • they physically hurt you;
  • they were with another person or other people who also sexually assaulted you.

3.) A person may be charged with aggravated sexual assault if:

  • you were wounded, crippled, disfigured or brutally beaten; your life was endangered.

(From: The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre – Public Education and Action Kit)

Possible Impacts of Sexual Violence

The impact of a sexual assault can be disruptive to a person’s daily life. You may experience some of the following effects or you may experience others that are not on this list. Whatever impacts you do experience are valid, and it is important that you find ways to seek support in coping with them. You may experience some of the following impacts and responses:

  • shock
  • sadness
  • denial
  • numbness
  • fear/terror
  • lack of trust
  • shame
  • self blame/guilt
  • anger
  • feeling overwhelmed/confused
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in relationships
  • sleep disturbances/nightmares
  • changes in how you feel about sex and intimacy
  • shifts in assumptions about your safety in the world

The impacts of a sexual assault can be affected by the wider social attitudes about sexual violence and the specific context of your own life. Some of these factors may be: societal myths about sexual violence, the presence or absence of supportive people in your life, reactions of those you disclose the assault to, your experience of other forms of violence and oppression in your life (eg. racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism, ageism, etc.), and your coping strategies. After a time you may find that you have developed the inner and outer resources to help you cope with the impacts of the assault. You may find that there is pressure from family and friends for you to move on. It is important to remember that everyone has her/his own pace for moving through the impact of a sexual assault. It is also important that you try to use the supports that you are comfortable connecting with to help you through this difficult time. That support can come from a friend, a family member, your partner, or a counsellor that you trust.

Self Care

There is no right or wrong way to engage in self care. Self care is about making time for ourselves and tending to our needs. It helps us resource ourselves during difficult times. It can be preventive, helping keep us in a positive space. It can help us grow even when things are going well. This is a list of ideas, some that cost money and take time (which may limit some of us doing some of them), but many are low-cost or free and only take a few minutes. Also, many can be added. The most important thing is to think about what works for you and to carve out space regularly for yourself.

Emotional Self Care

  • Ask for a hug
  • Listen to music
  • Talk with a friend
  • Do deep breathing exercises
  • Burn essential oils
  • Cry
  • Go for a walk/exercise
  • Look at old photos
  • Express yourself (eg. journal/write/paint)
  • Smile
  • Drink tea
  • Light some candles
  • Sit outside in the sun
  • Go for a walk in the rain

Spiritual Self Care

  • Share thoughts/feelings with trusted friends and family
  • Make personal space for self care (at least 20 mins a day)
  • Go to Temple/Mosque/Synagogue/Church/Serene place
  • Pray/Smudge/Engage in positive rituals • Do something nice for others
  • Meditate
  • Star gaze
  • Try to meet new friends
  • Play with pets
  • Listen to music
  • Connect with nature (eg. go camping or hiking, visit a park or garden)

Mental Self Care

  • Learn a new hobby (eg. play a new instrument, learn salsa, etc.)
  • Make crafts (eg. make magnets, make candles,beading,knitting, carving, embroidery, make cards, make a zine, make your own t-shirt/clothes, etc.)
  • Balance negative thoughts with positive thoughts • Study a new language
  • Join a club (eg. sports, photography, pottery, jogging)
  • Talk with a friend
  • Make a puzzle
  • Read
  • Journal, write a short story or poetry
  • Paint
  • Watch a movie/documentary
  • Think of an accomplishment you are proud of
  • Daydream

Physical Self Care

  • Have a warm bath
  • Go for a walk/exercise/do yoga/stretch
  • Go sledding/skating/skiing
  • Get enough quality sleep/naps
  • Do grounding/breathing/visualization relaxation exercises
  • Explore a new place in the city (eg. a new part of town, festival, market)
  • Create a project (eg. rearrange/redecorate your bedroom
  • Garden/care for plants
  • Bake/cook – learn a new recipe
  • Pamper yourself (eg. get a haircut, paint nails, give yourself a facial, put nice lotion on your skin, soak feet)
  • Go dancing or learn different types of dancing
  • Go bowling
  • Drink Tea

Relaxation Techniques

Deep Breathing

  1. sit or stand comfortably
  2. inhale slowly through the nose (and push out stomach)
  3. hold for a few seconds
  4. exhale through pursed lips slowly
  5. repeat several times
  6. shift concentration from breathing to feelings of relaxation

Progressive Relaxation

  1. inhale and tense muscles of brow and around eyes and notice how it feels
  2. exhale and release tension and notice the difference
  3. concentrate on the difference between the two (tension-relaxation)
  4. tense muscles of mouth and jaw and release as above
  5. progress through muscles of neck and shoulders
  6. progress through body


  1. sit comfortably
  2. reduce distractions
  3. mentally focus on one peaceful word, thought or image
  4. breathe deeply
  5. don’t be discouraged by intrusive thoughts let them wash over you


  1. picture a tranquil setting real or imagined
  2. imagine yourself in this setting
  3. look around at the visual details
  4. pay attention to specific smells, sounds, feelings, sensations
  5. imagine how relaxed you can feel in this setting

Coping with Flashbacks, Intense Anxiety and/or Panic Through Grounding

The following suggestions are referred to as ‘grounding strategies’:

  1. Get out of the panic-evoking situation if you need to and if possible.
  2. Breathe deep breaths through your nose increases the air flow to your lungs and helps reduce your heart rate and panic reaction. Exhale slowly through your mouth.
  3. Don’t try to control or fight your reactions accept them and “ride them out” reminding yourself that the panic is not dangerous and will pass.
  4. Call someone and express your feelings to them.
  5. Move around or engage in physical activity.
  6. Focus on simple objects around you. Many people find it helpful to go through a sequence whereby they identify five things they can see, five things they can hear, five things they can smell, and continue through this process until the panic subsides.
  7. Touch the floor, the physical objects around you, or ground yourself in some other way, i.e. plant your feet on the floor,
  8. remind yourself of the current time and date, your age ...
  9. If you are in a place where you can do so, discharge your tension by pounding your fists, venting your anger, or crying.
  10. Breathe slowly and regularly through your nose to reduce possible hyperventilation.
  11. Use positive self-talk (coping statements) in conjunction with slow breathing.
  12. Ask yourself, “What is the most supportive thing I could do for myself right now?”
  13. Experiment with different coping strategies when you feel panic reactions progressing. Over time you will learn which strategies work best for you.

(Adapted from: The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne)

Sleep Disturbances and Nightmares

Following are suggestions that have been recommended to help improve both the quality and amount of your sleep:

  1. Exercise during the day, preferably in the late afternoon before dinner. Aerobic exercise (20 minutes or more) is better, but 45 minutes to an hour of brisk walking is helpful.
  2. Go to bed and get up at regular times, even if you’re tired in the morning. Don’t vary your time of going to bed, or getting up.
  3. Don’t try to make yourself sleep. If you’re unable to fall asleep after 20-30 minutes in bed, leave or engage in some relaxing activity (such as watching TV, sitting in a chair and listening to a relaxation tape, or having a cup of herbal tea), and do not return to bed until you are sleepy.
  4. Avoid heavy meals before bedtime, or going to bed hungry (a small snack before bedtime may be helpful).
  5. Avoid heavy alcohol consumption before bedtime.
  6. Turn yourself down during the last hour or two of the day. Avoid vigorous physical or mental activity, emotional upsets, and so on.
  7. Reduce caffeine and nicotine consumption as much as possible. If you must have coffee, have it early in the day.
  8. Instead of prescription drugs, try natural supplements that foster sleep.
  9. Develop a sleep ritual before bedtime. This is some activity you do every night before you get into bed. A hot shower or bath before bedtime may help you relax.
  10. For relaxing tense muscles or a racing mind, use deep relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or guided visualization.
  11. Avoid napping during the day.
  12. Don’t let yourself be afraid of insomnia. Work on accepting those nights when you don’t sleep as well. You can still function the next day, even if you had only a couple of hours of sleep. The less you fight, resist or fear sleeplessness, the more it will tend to go away.
  13. Talk about distressing feelings, emotions and thoughts with a support person, be it a friend, family member or counsellor. Getting more emotional support and expressing your feelings often will help you sleep.

(Adapted from: The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne).

A Word to Friends and Families

After a friend, family member or partner has been sexually assaulted, they may experience strong and conflicting emotions,
some of which you may also experience. You may find yourself feeling:

  • angry at what has happened to your loved one;
  • helplessness and confusion as to how you can be of help
  • to them;
  • sadness and grief;
  • discomfort in your relationship with your loved one;
  • upset and frustrated with the changes in your relationship with the assaulted person.

It is important that you know that after a person has been sexually assaulted, they may experience overwhelming emotional and physical reactions. You may be wondering what you can do to help. It will not be an easy time for you or for the person who has been assaulted, but here are some suggestions as to how you can be supportive:

  • listen to her/him without judgment;
  • support her/his decisions in every way possible;
  • help her/him find the resources and support they may need;
  • recognize your feelings separate from theirs
  • realize your own limitations, take time out for self care when you need it;
  • you may find yourself wanting to make decisions for your loved one, but it is important that you allow them to take time out for self care when they need it;
  • avoid asking “why” questions and reinforce the fact that the sexual assault was not their fault;
  • be patient with them as they struggle to come to terms with the assault;
  • acknowledge and validate whatever they are feeling and their need to express those feelings, avoid telling them how you think they should be reacting.

(Adapted from: Sexual Assault: Information for Families by Victoria Women’s Sexual Assault Centre and Caring for a Friend or Family Member Following Sexual Assault by Sexual Assault Program, Women’s Health Care Centre, Peterborough Regional Health Centre)

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Location & Contact Information

Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Care Centre (SA/DVCC)
Women's College Hospital
76 Grenville Street
Main floor
Toronto, ON M5S 1B2

Phone: 416-323-6040

Fax: 416-323-6489

Important: The centre is located in the Acute Ambulatory Care Unit (AACU) on the 1st floor in Room 1305.

Office Hours:
Monday to Friday
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

A nurse is available 24 hours/day

The hospital is fully accessible. All clinics have wheelchair accessible washrooms.

Our Publications

  • Fully affiliated with:
  • University of Toronto

  • A member of:
  • Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO)