Sexual assault is any form of unwanted sexual activity that is forced upon a person without that person’s consent. Sexual assault can range from unwanted sexual touching to forced intercourse. While most sexual assaults are perpetrated against women, both women and men can and are sexually assaulted.
The Criminal Code of Canada recognizes that individuals cannot always speak up and say no. She or he may be disabled, intoxicated, intimidated or coerced into agreeing to sexual activity. If the assailant used force, threats, or lied about their actions, the courts can decide that consent was not freely given.
The definition of consent as it relates to sexual assault is found in section 153(2) and (3) of the Criminal Code of Canada.
According to the law, there is no consent in any of the following situations.
- the agreement is expressed by the words or conduct of a person other than the complainant;
- the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity;
- the accused counsels or incites the complainant to engage in the activity by abusing a position of trust, power or authority;
- the complainant expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to engage in the activity; or
- the complainant, having consented to engage in sexual activity, expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to continue to engage in the activity.
Offences related to sexual assault include: sexual assault; sexual assault with a weapon; threats to a third party or causing bodily harm; and aggravated sexual assault.
Certain situations can magnify the gravity of a sexual assault, such as when the assailant is in a position of trust or authority over the individual, when there is excessive violence or multiple assailants involved, or when physical harm or injury results.
Sexual assault of women
Sexual assault of women is far more prevalent than sexual assault of men, with almost 40 percent of women reporting having been sexually assaulted at least once since they turned sixteen.
Women make up more than three-quarters of all reported sexual assaults, with young women between the ages of 15 and 25 making up more than half of that number. The majority of reported sexual assaults on women are perpetrated by men with whom they were acquainted.
Possible physical and emotional health effects on women
Possible health effects include, but are not limited to:
- Physical injuries
- Unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections
- Sleep disturbances, including nightmares and insomnia
- Depression, mood swings, anxiety
- Anger, fear, inability to trust
- Addiction issues