What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact. It can include anything from unwanted sexual touching, to rape or the threat of sexual contact without consent.
Sexual assault impacts people of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations. Most people know the person who assaulted them; they can be someone they know a little (e.g., a first date) or very well (e.g., a good friend or partner). Many people do not tell anyone of their assault, or even realize it was an assault until months or years later.
Sexual assault is a crime. In Canadian law, sexual assault happens when one person does not freely consent to the sexual activity. Consent cannot be given by someone who is intoxicated as a result of using drugs or alcohol.
What is consent?
Consent is a voluntary and enthusiastic â€śyesâ€ť to engage in sexual activity. Consenting to one kind of sexual activity does not mean consent is given to another sexual activity, and consent only applies to each specific instance of sexual activity.
- Consent cannot be assumed or implied from silence or the absence of â€śno.â€ť There is no consent if the person doesnâ€™t reply.
- Consent cannot be given if a person is affected by alcohol or drugs, or is unconscious. There is no consent if someone is impaired, incapacitated, asleep, or passed out.
- Consent cannot be obtained through threats or coercion. There is no consent if the person is manipulated, pressured, or threatened.
- Consent cannot be obtained if someone abuses a position of trust, power, or authority.
- There is no consent if someone uses a position of power or authority to get someone to engage in unwanted sexual activity.
- Consent is revocable at any time. Consent does not exist if someone has said â€śyes,â€ť but then says â€śnoâ€ť later with words or body language.
- Consent does not exist if someone has said â€śnoâ€ť with words or body language.
Alcohol is involved in over 80% of sexual assaults.
You are responsible for determining whether consent is being given before and during the sexual activity. This includes ensuring that the person youâ€™re seeking consent from is not affected by alcohol or drugs and is able to freely give consent. Your own intoxication cannot be used as a defence against failing to get consent.
Each survivor of sexual assault has their own personal experience, emotions, and ways of coping.Â A few common reactions:
- A change in how you feel about yourself. For example, lowered self-esteem or confidence.
- A change in how you feel about your body. For example, feeling unclean, detached from your body, wanting to harm your body.
- Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach problems, or eating and sleeping problems.
- Emotional symptoms such as mood swings, feelings of loss or grief, anger, rage, irritability, or feelings of depression.
- Using alcohol, drugs, food, or exercise to cope with intense feelings.
- Lack of motivation and difficulty concentrating.
- Problems with sexual intimacy, wanting less or more sex, a change in pleasure, or a change in emotional connection.