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December 7, 2023 Dec 07, 2023 6 min read

A Quick Guide to Basic Services and Resources for Survivors

Navigating the world of social services as a survivor of assault or abuse can feel daunting and overwhelming. Some survivors may even be less likely to seek support due to the lack of clear information available about service options. That’s why we’ve put together this simple and straightforward list of definitions to help you understand the basic services and resources available to victims and survivors of sexual assault and abuse. To learn more about services for survivors, keep reading.

Hotlines and Crisis Lines

Crisis and support hotlines provide information, resources, and emotional support to victims and survivors. They are also one of the most common, accessible, and widely used services for survivors.


Hotline services and availability vary depending on where you live, but these services are typically staffed 24/7 with support workers specially trained to assist people in domestic violence and sexual assault crisis situations. Most support lines also provide emotional support to survivors recovering from abuse. Hotlines are entirely anonymous in most cases, although information that could indicate active child abuse will likely be reported to the relevant authorities.

To learn more about support hotlines, check out our article “What to Expect When Calling a Crisis Line.”



You can also search for crisis and support lines in your area using the Go Thrive Go services database.

Crisis Centres

Known by various names including rape crisis centre and sexual assault crisis centre, crisis centres provide resources, services, information, and support to victims of sexual assault. Each crisis centre is different and provides services based on community need, which can include hotline services, support groups, counseling, legal advocacy, medical services, and more.


To learn more about rape crisis centres, check out our article “Everything You Need to Know About Rape Crisis Centres.”

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Emergency Shelters

Emergency shelters are designed to provide temporary safe housing to people fleeing from abusive situations. Unlike other shelters, emergency shelters for domestic violence (DV) and sexual assault (SA) survivors are in discrete locations, maintain a high degree of security for the sake of residents, and are only open to people in need of urgent shelter due to active abuse. There are several different kinds of emergency shelters for DV and SA victims, including women’s-only shelters and shelters for victims with children.

To learn more about emergency shelters, check out “Everything You Need to Know About Emergency Shelters” as well as our “What to Bring With You to an Emergency Shelter” checklist.


Although hospitals don’t solely serve victims of sexual assault and abuse, they’re one of the most important services for survivors. A victim of sexual assault or intimate partner violence may need to visit a hospital to receive emergency or ongoing medical care, pursue a rape kit exam, or undergo a medical procedure. That said, not all hospitals provide the full range of emergency services a sexual assault victim may need. For example, not all hospitals offer rape kit exams.


To learn what a rape kit exam is, check out our article “What is a Rape Kit?” To find out how to locate a hospital that offers rape kit exams near you, check out our article “Where to Go for a Rape Kit Exam.”


Support Groups

Support groups for survivors of sexual abuse or intimate partner violence are an excellent way for survivors to find community, support, and understanding. These groups exist both in person and online, and most are available at no charge to participants. Some support groups may be open to all victims of assault or abuse, while others may be limited to participants of a certain gender or who have experienced a specific type of abuse.


Advocacy Organizations

Similar to crisis centres, advocacy organizations provide services, resources, information, and support to victims and survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Anyone who is experiencing abuse or violence in their lives can receive support from a survivor advocacy organization (sometimes called domestic violence and sexual assault resource centres). Advocacy organizations offer referrals to places like hospitals and shelters, but they don’t typically offer emergency services on site.


Police Stations

Although police stations are not designed to support survivors of abuse and violence, it’s important to understand what services they can provide. Most commonly, a victim of sexual abuse or violence might contact a police station in a crisis situation if they are in need of immediate assistance. A survivor may also call the police or visit a station directly to report an experience of assault or abuse. Any victim of violence or assault interested in pursuing legal charges against a perpetrator will need to contact or visit a police station to begin the process.


To learn more about interfacing with law enforcement as a sexual assault or abuse survivor, check out our articles “Reporting Rape or Sexual Assault (What to Expect),” “I Was Sexually Assaulted. Should I Report?,” and “Where, When, and How to Report Rape or Sexual Assault.”


Although most victims of sexual assault and abuse won’t need to visit a courthouse, these locations may be relevant in certain situations.


A survivor of assault or abuse may need to visit a courthouse if…

  • They file a civil suit against an abuser or assailant
  • They pursue criminal charges against an abuser or assailant and the case goes to trial
  • They petition for an order for protection from the court

To learn more about orders for protection, check out our article “What is a Protection Order?” To learn about the full range of legal options available to victims of sexual assault and abuse, check out “Legal Options for Victims of Sexual Assault and Rape.”

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