What is Sexual Assault?
In Canada, the Criminal Code defines sexual assault as “any unwanted sexual act done by one person to another or sexual activity without one person’s consent or voluntary agreement” (Dept. of Justice, 2010).
What is consent?
Consent is a physical, verbal, and emotional agreement between people to engage in sexual activity. It is mutual, ongoing, and specific to the sexual act, and the people involved can change their minds at any time.
Consent can be shown through words and through body language. Consent goes beyond “no means no” — it should be recognized through an enthusiastic “yes!”
Consent cannot be given by means of violence, threats, manipulation, or coercion. It cannot be given if someone’s unconscious or incapacitated through drugs, alcohol, or any other reason. Silence is not consent.
What is the age of consent?
It’s always the responsibility of the person who is older to find out the age of the younger person. The younger person will never be the one who is held responsible. The law is specific surrounding the age of consent.
Anyone who is 12 or 13 years old can only legally consent to sexual activity with someone who is less than 2 years older.
Anyone who is 14 or 15 years old can only legally consent to sexual activity with someone who is less than 5 years older.
Anyone who is under the age of 18 cannot legally consent to sexual activity with someone who is in a position of power, trust, or authority — like a teacher, coach, or counsellor.
Sexual assault happens to people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, and cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Certain groups of people face even higher rates, including women of colour, people in the LGBTQ2S+ community, women with disabilities, and women who are at risk of homelessness or who are unhoused.
- Discrimination, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, and the continued effects of colonialism continue to contribute to these higher rates of violence.
Sexual assault can have huge impacts on the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of the survivor.
- It can be one of the most traumatizing experiences that a person can go through.
- We all have different ways to cope with trauma; there is no right or wrong way to feel following a sexual assault.
- It’s normal for people to be angry, numb, or in shock. It’s common to self-blame and minimize what occurred, but no matter what happened, it is not the survivor’s fault.
You’re not defined by what happened to you.
Healing from sexual assault can be a long journey,
but it’s important to know that it’s possible.
For many people, it takes time and support.
If you have been sexually assaulted within the last 7 days:
We recommend that people go to Lady Minto Hospital following a sexual assault, even if there aren’t any apparent injuries.* We also respect that it’s an entirely personal decision for you to make.
If you decide to go to the hospital, a Forensic Nurse (FNE) trained in supporting people who’ve been sexually assaulted is available for support. They can treat any injuries, test for Sexually Transmitted Infections, and prevent pregnancy if needed.
If someone wants to report to police, an FNE can document injuries and collect any evidence that can be used in an investigation. This evidence can be stored for up to a year. There’s never any pressure to report to police, and all parts of the exam are done with your consent. A member of the IWAV staff is also able to meet you at the hospital and provide support.
*If you have any urgent injuries or have been strangled, please go directly to Lady Minto Hospital. Strangulation can have lasting impacts, and it’s important to have them checked out by a doctor or nurse.
Please call our 24/7 Sexual Assault Response helpline if you have any questions or need any support.
Local (250) 931-7712 | Toll-free 1-833-946-1706