Sexual assault

You may have been a victim of sexual assault if you have been involved in any type of sexual activity without giving your consent.

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act done by one person to another. This can mean any unwanted touching of a sexual nature such as kissing, fondling, oral sex, and intercourse.

Rape is a term that is no longer used in Canada in a legal sense, although it is still commonly used to describe vaginal, oral or anal intercourse, without consent.

Acquaintance sexual assault occurs when a person is assaulted by a person she or he knows.

Sexual assault is an act of violence committed to make the attacker feel powerful.

Being assaulted is a very traumatic experience – even if you were able to get away from your attacker. It is very important that you get help if you have been a victim of this crime.

You can call the police, a rape crisis centre in your area (look online for numbers) or Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.

Consent is a key factor in sexual assault. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, consent is defined "as a voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity with another person." The consent must be clearly expressed in words or conduct and is determined to not be obtained if:

  • The individual is impaired by alcohol or drugs
  • The individual is unconscious or sleeping
  • The "accused" is in a position of trust or authority (teacher, coach, employer)
  • The "accused" uses intimidation or threats to coerce a person into sexual activity
  • An individual changes his or her mind and says no – no means no!

Common myths about sexual assault

Myth: It’s ok to force a person to have sex if they:

  • hitchhike
  • wear sexy or provocative clothing
  • go out on a date with the person
  • spend money on the person

Truth: It is never ok to force a person to have sex. No reason justifies sexual assault – consent must always be given.

Myth: Males always commit the sexual assaults

Truth: Females can also be violent and guys can get assaulted as well

Many males who are sexually assaulted have increased shame around reporting the incident because of the stereotype of guys always wanting sex, regardless of the circumstances.

Myth: Many females lie about being assaulted or they "ask for it" by wearing provocative clothing or going out alone

Truth: Females rarely lie about being sexually assaulted and wearing certain clothes or going out alone is not an invitation for sex

Myth: Sexual assaults are usually committed by a stranger

Truth: You are more likely to be assaulted by someone you know than by a stranger

What you can do if you have been sexually assaulted

Being sexually assaulted is a very scary and difficult experience that can lead to a wide range of feelings and symptoms such as:

  • Shock
  • Self-blame
  • Shame
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Fear and anxiety
It can also lead to:

  • Trouble eating
  • Difficulties with sleep including bad dreams
  • Flashbacks
  • Mood swings

If you have been sexually assaulted, it is important that you get support. First, you may choose to contact the police. Many communities have sexual assault or crisis lines that allow you to talk to someone about what you are feeling. You can also talk to family, friends, teachers, counsellors or someone else you trust.

Getting help, including contacting the police, is ultimately your decision and you need to know what is comfortable for you. If you have been sexually assaulted, here are some things to remember:

  • It is often recommended that after a sexual assault has taken place you do not bathe or change your clothes until you have gone to the hospital for an examination
  • It is important to go to the hospital after you have been sexually assaulted so they can make sure you are not physically hurt
  • Hospital staff can talk to you about testing for sexually transmitted infection and pregnancy if a condom was not used
  • It can also be helpful to go to the hospital because they can look for physical evidence, in case you decide to press charges against the attacker
  • If you want more information before you make a decision about reporting a sexual assault, you can call the police anonymously to find out more about the process
  • You can also call a local sexual assault/crisis line. These numbers are usually listed at the front of the phone book or online.

Remember: It is not your fault and no one has the right to touch you sexually without your permission.

Last reviewed: March 2014 by the Kids Help Phone Counselling Team

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