November 13, 2020

My Experience Volunteering for the Rape Crisis Line

When I was in my 30s, I decided to volunteer for the Rape Crisis Line.  The Rape Crisis Line provides a safe place for women to talk about past or ongoing abuse that is free and confidential, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

After receiving over 30 hours of crisis line training, I was given the night shift.  I answered the phone and talked to women who had been raped, victims of unwanted touching, incest survivors, and survivors of childhood and adult sexual assault.


In many of the calls that I received, I found that the perpetrators were family members or neighbours; oftentimes, victims were harmed by the same people who were supposed to love and protect them.  It was a very saddening thing to discover.


Other times, I would meet a survivor at the hospital.  I had received extensive training and would be there to help and advocate for them.


I remember one time in particular when I was called to help a survivor at the hospital.  While there, part of my job was to ask questions that would help give a woman back her power.


I asked, “Do you want me in the room?”


She said, “Yes.”


“Do you want me to call any friend or relatives?”




“Do you want all three police officers in the room or just one?” 

“Just one.”


“Which one?”


“The female.”


I asked the other officers to leave the room, but they insisted that they were there to collect evidence.


I asked them, “Do you trust the female officer to do a good job?”


They said, “Yes,” and the two male officers left the crowded room.


Next, the doctor did the very intrusive rape kit.  I explained to the lady that she could take a break at any time.  She was a real trooper.


Once the exam was complete, I asked her if she wanted the morning-after pill.  She said, “Yes.”


I asked the doctor if he could assist with this request.  He said he didn’t know if the hospital had such a thing.  I politely asked him if he could find out.


Sometime later, the doctor returned with the pill and the lady took it.


When the examination was over, I asked the lady if she needed a ride.  She said “No,” and that she’d take a taxi home.


As time went on, this lady called the Crisis Line numerous times to speak with me.  On the days when I was volunteering and we were able to connect, she told me of the many unfortunate consequences that came from that one horrible event.  First, she had lost her job as she was not able to function at work.  Then, because she didn’t have a job and refused to take medication for her depression, she couldn’t provide for her child and lost custody.  It was clear that rape isn’t just a single event; often, it produces a chain reaction that can affect every aspect of a survivor’s circumstance.


I learned a lot during the five years when I volunteered.  For example, did you know that every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted?


In Canadian law, the formal term is “sexual assault,” which is defined in the Canadian Criminal Code as “an assault…which is committed in circumstances of a sexual nature such that the sexual integrity of the victim is violated.”  As stated by the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres:


“Sexual assault includes rape, forced sexual contact, or sexual touching that you did not agree to.  It is sexual assault even if the person who touches you is:


- A person who helps you — for example, caregiver, attendant, interpreter, doctor, therapist

- A person you know — for example, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, neighbour, co-worker, friend

- A stranger (person you do not know)

- A family member — for example, cousin, brother, father, uncle, mother


No one has the right to touch you if you don’t want.  Without permission (consent), it is sexual assault.”


If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, a Rape Crisis Line can help.  You don’t have to go it alone.


Rape Crisis Lines are non-profit, community-based organizations providing unconditional and nonjudgmental support and empowerment to those who have survived any form of sexual violence.  Rape Crisis Lines can offer you:


- Information about the legal rights of survivors of crime

- Information about sexual assault

- Accompaniment and support during interviews with police and crown counsel

- Accompaniment and support while receiving medical attention at a hospital

- Assault related advocacy with the criminal justice and medical systems

- Appropriate referrals and criminal justice related information

- Accompaniment through legal and justice system proceedings


I marched through the streets of Barrie, Ontario, and chanted, “Take back the night!  For the first time in my 30-some years, I called myself a feminist.  I was fighting for the equality of all people regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic status, ability, or sexual orientation.  I looked at the world not as it is but what it could be.

- Johanne Levesque

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