How to identify sexual assault, abuse victims

Watch above: Disgraced hockey coach Graham James faces another sex charge and reaction to the news this week has been swift. Wendy Winiewski has some tips for parents concerned about enrolling their children in organized sports.

SASKATOON – What classifies as sexual abuse and/or sexual assault? It’s a question many victims struggle with according to Heather Pocock with Saskatoon’s Sexual Assault & Information Centre.

“Most people still assume sexual assault is only a really violent forced rape where you’re left injured.”

Pocock believes great strides have been made in the past decade, as the organization makes over 200 presentations per year to school aged children, defining sexual assault.

“It can range from unwanted kissing, unwanted touching, groping, maybe forcing somebody to do something as an ultimatum,” explains Pocock.

READ MORE: Former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy ‘not surprised’ by charges against pedophile Graham James

On Monday, Swift Current RCMP laid a charge of sexual assault against Graham James, 62. The former Swift Current Bronco coach has been previously charged with similar crimes. Former NHL player Theoron Fleury wrote about being a victim of James in his autobiography, Playing with Fire.

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“It took me 27 years,” said Fleury in reference to the time he waited before pursuing criminal charges. “It is a difficult choice and decision to come forward and face re-victimization in the justice system.”

READ MORE: A timeline of Graham James’s legal history

Coming forward with a sexual assault is the most difficult step for victims, according to Pocock.

“Many men don’t want to be seen as vulnerable,” said Pocock.

“The thing we always have to remember is when somebody has been a victim of a sexual assault, it’s because somebody did this to you.”

Indicators someone’s been sexually abused often can be detected through behavioral changes. Sexual assault indicators include:

  • Reluctance to be with a certain person or go to a certain place
  • Unusual interest in or knowledge of sexual organs
  • Moodiness
  • Sleep disturbances (nightmares, bedwetting, troubles sleeping)
  • Change in appetite (increase or decrease)
  • Withdrawl from interests
  • Return to childish behavior
  • Self-destruction (drug or alcohol use, running away, skipping school, shoplifting, self-mutilation)

Five per cent of sexual assaults are initiated by a person of trust and authority, such as a coach.

“We certainly don’t want everyone to be afraid of teachers and coaches,” said Pocock.

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The Sexual Assault & Information Centre recommends parents start conversations about sexual consent with their children at a young age, in hopes of changing outcomes and healing wounds sooner.

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