What is sexual assault?

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Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act done by one person to another. Sexual assault is never OK and if it’s happened to you, know it’s not your fault.

A person may be a victim of sexual assault if they’ve been involved in any type of sexual activity without giving their permission or saying it’s OK (this is known as consent). This includes any unwanted touching of a sexual nature such as kissing, fondling, oral sex or intercourse.

Sexual assault is an act of violence committed by a person in order to feel power over another person. It can come in different forms:

  • Sexual touching of any kind that is unwanted or coerced, including kissing or groping.
  • Rape means being forced to have vaginal, oral or anal intercourse against your will or without your full consent.
  • Acquaintance sexual assault is when a person is attacked by someone they know such as a classmate, neighbour or friend. Date rape is a specific type of acquaintance sexual assault which occurs when a person is attacked by someone they know and may be interested in (like a partner)
  • Other forms of sexual violence include sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and unwanted sexting.

Sexual assault of any type can be a very traumatic experience, even if you’re able to get away from the attacker. If you’ve been sexually assaulted, it’s important to remember:

  • It’s not your fault: sexual assault is always the attacker’s fault, not yours. People never “ask for it” because of what they’re wearing or how they act. If sex is forced without someone’s consent, it’s rape. It’s still rape if the people are dating, married or have had sex together before. Remember that you never “owe” someone sex.
  • Sexual assault isn’t always violent: If you say no or don’t say anything at all, and the person continues, it’s sexual assault because you never gave your permission. This is true even if you don’t resist.
  • Sexual assault isn’t always about sex: sex without consent is an act of violence and aggression — it’s not about love and respect. Someone who cares about you will not force you to do anything sexual without your permission.

It’s important to get help. If you’ve been a victim of sexual assault, you can contact emergency services, a sexual violence crisis centre in your area or Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 for support.

I’ve been sexually assaulted — what should I do?

If you’ve been sexually assaulted, it’s important to get support immediately.

Being sexually assaulted is a very scary and difficult experience that can lead to:

  • shock
  • self-blame
  • shame
  • anger
  • depression
  • fear and anxiety
  • trouble eating
  • difficulties with sleep (including bad dreams)
  • flashbacks
  • mood swings

Where can I get help?

Many communities have sexual assault or crisis lines that allow you to talk to someone about what you’re feeling. You can also talk to family, friends, teachers, counsellors or someone else you trust. If you’re comfortable, you may choose to contact the police.

Getting help, including contacting emergency services, is your decision. If you’ve been sexually assaulted and are thinking about reporting it, here are some things to remember:

  • It’s often recommended that after a sexual assault has taken place, you don’t bathe or change your clothes until you’ve gone to the hospital for an examination.
  • It’s important to go to the hospital after you’ve been sexually assaulted so the staff can make sure you’re not physically hurt.
  • Hospital staff can talk to you about testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy, if needed.
  • It can be helpful to go to the hospital because the staff can look for physical evidence in case you decide to press charges against the attacker.
  • Even if some time has passed since the sexual assault took place, you can still report it.
  • If you want more information before you make a decision about reporting a sexual assault, you can contact emergency services anonymously to learn more about the process.
  • You can call a local sexual assault or crisis line. You can find their numbers online or search Resources Around Me for more information.

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

Text CONNECT to 686868 to reach a trained volunteer crisis responder, or call 1-800-668-6868 to speak with one of our professional counsellors. Both services are completely free, available 24/7 and confidential.

Common myths about sexual assault

Here are some common myths about sexual assault (and their truths):

Myth: it’s OK to force someone to have sex if they are drunk, wear provocative clothing, or agree to go out on a date with the person.
Truth: it’s never OK to force someone to have sex. No reason justifies sexual assault — you must get consent every time.

Myth: males always commit the sexual assaults.
Truth: people of any gender can commit sexual assault or be sexually assaulted.

Myth: sexual assaults are usually committed by a stranger.
Truth: you’re more likely to be assaulted by someone you know than by a stranger. (This is called acquaintance sexual assault.)

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