Police process horrible, sexual assault survivor says

A woman who last year reported having been sexually assaulted tells CBC News the experience of dealing with the police was horrible.

'I wasn't being believed,' Danielle Da Silva tells CBC News

A woman who last year reported having been sexually assaulted made tells CBC News the experience was horrible. 2:24

Allegations against former CBC host JianGhomeshi have sparked a national conversation about sexual assault, which recently saw Toronto police Chief Bill Blair encourage any victim of physical or sexual harassment to come forward. 

But a woman who contacted CBC News who says she made that step last year says the experience was horrible. 

Danielle Da Silva, 27, was sexually assaulted almost seven years ago by someone she thought she knew well. 

For years the activist and photographer didn't report it, and instead buried herself in work. 

"The last thing I wanted to do was like yell or scream or like draw attention to what just happened," Da Silva told CBC News. 

But after six years, amid mounting depression, she eventually reported it to police. 

She says the initial interaction was good, but that changed. 

"Here I am, a grown woman, coming to police about something I've clearly thought about for a long time — and to be asked over and over again if this is something I'm serious about was just a little insulting," she said. 

When her alleged attacker came forward she says it became a case of his word against hers. The case was dismissed. 

"It felt like I don't matter, they don't take me seriously, I wasn't being believed." 

The federal government today announced $200,000 to provide an online one-stop-shop to help victims access services. 

Da Silva wants better training for police to deal with victims of trauma, and warns those who do choose to come forward to be prepared.

"I just think it's really important to go into it understanding that the police and the legal system is not there to help anyone heal," Da Silva said. 

And yet, despite that, she says it's important to talk openly about sexual assault, and that the scandal around Ghomeshi is allowing people to open up. 

Flooded with calls 

Bonny Levine, Executive Director of Victim Services Toronto, says her agency has received a flood of calls from victims of recent and historical sexual assaults.

"That whole idea of safety in numbers is really taking place, our crisis response program is getting calls almost off the hook since this story broke," she said.

She says not all of them want to file a report with police, but all are looking for support. She says people now are more inclined to believe women when they say they've been sexually assaulted.

Victims Services is a not-for-profit charity that many often mistakenly think is run by Toronto police. Levine says the organization can provide a variety of services and connect survivors to other resources.

"You need to do what's right for you, at the time that's right for you, and you need to support people through all stages of their process." 

Earlier this week Chief Blair encouraged women to come forward and promised they would be treated with respect and compassion. 

"We know there's quite a bit of discussion about how difficult it is, and we acknowledge how difficult it is and it's one of the reasons we committed to providing the support victims need," Blair said. 

From a report by Steven D'Souza