Color & Control:

The case of the missing rape kits?

When Gabrielle went to a Montreal hospital in need of a “rape kit exam,” she was shocked by the hospital’s answer: “We don’t do that here.” 

A rape kit is a sexual assault forensic exam and the sooner they are conducted, the more evidence can be collected. Yet 41per cent of Canadian hospitals do not have rape kits or staff trained in their use. In fact, in some areas of Canada, survivors have to drive for hours to reach a hospital where the evidence can be collected. 

Gabrielle believes that survivors of sexual violence shouldn’t have to struggle to access emergency medical care, especially during such a traumatic time. She is calling for rape kits to be available in every hospital in Canada and none to soon. Here is her story.

In February 2017, I was drugged and raped by a stranger in my home town of Montreal. In the following hours, I woke up in my apartment not remembering anything. I knew that by the state of my body that something quite wrong had happened, but I didn’t know what. I managed to have two of my closest friends pick me up and bring me to the Montreal Jewish Hospital. When my turn came to go into triage, I could barely speak and stand. I manage to mumble: “I need a rape kit.” The answer was: “We don’t do that here.” My despair continued. Thank goodness for my mother, who let my friend know that I needed to go at Hotel Dieu Hospital instead.

Once we arrived, the nurse questioned me thoroughly to make sure my mother tongue was French. If I had said English, I would have been sent to Montreal General. This was highly confusing for me as I was someone in need of emergency care. Essentially, my urban location, personal network and language determined the care I received. I finally got my rape kit done and learned that, due to internal evidence, I had indeed been raped.  

A rape kit is a sexual assault forensic exam, a package of items used by medical personnel for gathering and preserving physical evidence. Usually taken soon after the assault—the sooner they occur, the more evidence can be collected. Rape kits are conducted by a trained healthcare professional. They will have a title such as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners (SAFEs), or Sexual Assault Examiners (SAEs). The kits are also a way to assess a person’s healthcare needs, prevent further harm, and provide the needed care and tests. However, many hospitals and healthcare facilities do not have anyone on staff who is trained to conduct a rape kit.

Rape Kits or S.A.E.K.’s (Sexual Assault Evidence Kits) are part of our right to healthcare and, as such, must be available to everyone, regardless of sexual identity, orientation, gender, race, religion, physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, age and mother tongue. As a survivor, Gabrielle seeks to see this need met now, to see change now.

Join her and others in the call-to-action in ensuring that quality rape kits are readily available to everyone in every hospital in Canada by requesting that Minister Maryam Monsef of the Department of Women and Gender Equality (Status of Women Canada) make this a national right to healthcare matter, and work to make it happen now. 



For more information:

If you are in need of help contact: 

Tips for reporting sexual assault:

Contents of a rape kit: 

A national organization dedicated to this issue:
SAVE Canada: Sexual Abuse & Violence Education:  

A main resource for info-action in Canada:

Related Articles

Recent Articles

Complimentary Issue

If you would like to receive a free digital copy of this magazine enter your email.