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What is sexual assault?

A criminal offense under the Criminal Code of Canada. Sexual assault is any type of unwanted sexual act done by one person to another that violates the sexual integrity of the survivor and involves a range of behaviours from any unwanted touching to penetration. Sexual assault is characterized by a broad range of behaviours that involve the use of force, threats, or control towards a person which makes that person feel uncomfortable, distressed, frightened, threatened, or that is carried out in circumstances in which the person has not freely agreed or consented to, or to which the person is incapable of consenting.

What is sexual violence?

A broad term that describes any violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality. This violence takes different forms including sexual abuse and sexual assault.

What is consent?

The voluntary and explicit agreement to engage in the sexual activity in question. It is the act of willingly agreeing to engage in specific sexual behaviour, and requires that a person is able to freely choose between two options: yes and no. This means that there must be an understandable exchange of affirmative words which indicate a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. It is also imperative that everyone understands the following:

a. silence or non-communication must never be interpreted as consent and a person in a state of diminished judgement cannot consent;

b. a person is incapable of giving consent if they are asleep, unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate;

c. a person who has been threatened or coerced (e.g. is not agreeing voluntarily) into engaging in the sexual activity is not consenting to it;

d. a person who is drugged is unable to consent;

e. a person is usually unable to give consent when under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs;

f.  if a person has a mental disability that prevents them from fully understanding the sexual acts, they may be unable to give consent;

g. the fact that consent was given in the past to a sexual or dating relationship does not mean that consent is deemed to exist for all future sexual activity;

h. a person can withdraw consent at any time during the course of a sexual encounter;

i.  a person is incapable of giving consent to a person in a position of trust, power or authority, such as a faculty member initiating a relationship with a student who they teach or an administrator in a relationship with anyone who reports to that position;

j.  consent cannot be given on behalf of another person.

It is the responsibility of the initiator of sexual activity to ensure clear and affirmative responses are communicated at all stages of sexual engagement. It is also the initiator’s responsibility to know if the person with whom they are sexually engaging is a minor.

What is a sexual assault evidence kit?

A Sexual Assault Evidence Kit is the collection of evidence from your body and clothing worn during or immediately after a sexual assault. This evidence can only be collected if the assault happened within the last 10 days.

If I make a report to the College, will the police be called?

The College understands that individuals who have experienced sexual violence may wish to control whether and how their experience will be dealt with by the police and/or the College. In most circumstances, the person will retain this control. A person who has experienced sexual violence may choose not to request an investigation and has the right not to participate in any investigation that may occur. In certain circumstances however, the College may be required to initiate an internal investigation and/or inform the police of the need for a criminal investigation, even without the person’s consent, if the College believes that the safety of other members of the College community is at risk. The confidentiality and anonymity of the person(s) affected will be prioritized in these circumstances.

What is Rape Culture?

A culture in which dominant ideas, social practices, media images and societal institutions implicitly or explicitly condone sexual assault by normalizing or trivializing male sexual violence and by blaming survivors for their own abuse. Sexual Violence is often thought about as an individual act of aggression, but in reality it is a complex social issue. The widespread occurrence of sexual violence continues not just as a result of individual attitudes and actions, but through dominant ideologies and larger social structures as well. It is everyone’s responsibility to challenge the ideas, behaviours and structures that contribute to sexual violence.

Why do some survivors not report an incident to the police?

The vast majority of survivors do not formally report to authorities and many do not even disclose to someone they trust because of some or all of the following reasons:

 Lack of clarity about the types of behaviour that constitute sexual violence. Survivors may feel that something has taken place that is “not right” but they may not understand that they have been sexually assaulted. This can be particularly true when the perpetrator is a friend, a partner or an acquaintance.

 Need more time to process what happened, concerns about being believed or blamed, feeling ashamed or guilty for what happened.

 Fear of institutional sanctions or a police investigation where underage drinking or the use of illegal drugs was involved.

 Fear of reprisal by the perpetrator or the perpetrator’s friends.

 Apprehension about the possible physical examinations and questions they may face.

 Anxious about losing control of what happens to them.

 They believe that nothing will happen to the perpetrator.

 Anticipate facing stereotypes and discrimination after previous experiences of racism, ableism, homophobia or transphobia.

 Worry that personal information they wish to keep private, such as sexual orientation, will be revealed if they report or disclose.

 Male victims may not be aware of appropriate supports or may be reluctant to access them.

 Lack of access to, or awareness of, available services, especially those that are culturally sensitive.

Other Relevant Terms

Acquaintance sexual assault: Sexual contact that is forced, manipulated, or coerced by a partner, friend or acquaintance.

Age of consent for sexual activity: The age at which a person can legally consent to sexual activity. In Canada, children under 12 can never legally consent to sexual acts. Sixteen is the legal age of consent for sexual acts.  There are variations on the age of consent for adolescents who are close in age between the ages of 12 and 16. Twelve and 13-year-olds can consent to have sex with other youth who are less than 2 years older than themselves. Youth who are 14 and 15 years old may consent to sexual involvement that is mutual with a person who is less than 5 years older. Youths 16 and 17 years old may legally consent to sexual acts with someone who is not in a position of trust or authority.

Coercion: In the context of sexual violence, coercion is unreasonable and persistent pressure for sexual activity. Coercion is the use of emotional manipulation, blackmail, threats to family or friends, or the promise of rewards or special treatment, to persuade someone to do something they do not wish to do, such as being sexual or performing particular sexual acts.

Drug-facilitated sexual assault: The use of alcohol and/or drugs (prescription or non-prescription) by a perpetrator to control, overpower or subdue a victim for purposes of sexual assault.

Stalking: A form of criminal harassment prohibited by the Criminal Code of Canada. It involves behaviours that occur on more than one occasion and which collectively instill fear in the victim or threaten the victim/target’s safety or mental health. Stalking can also include threats of harm to the target’s friends and/or family. These behaviours include, but are not limited to non-consensual communications (face to face, phone, email, social media); threatening or obscene gestures; surveillance; sending unsolicited gifts; “creeping” via social media/cyber-stalking; and uttering threats.

Survivor: Some who have experienced sexual violence may choose to identify as a survivor. Individuals might be more familiar with the term “victim”. We use the term “survivor” throughout this policy where relevant because some who have experienced sexual assault believe they have overcome the violent experience and do not wish to identify with the victimization. It is the prerogative of the person who has experienced these circumstances to determine how they wish to identify.

Use of the word Rape in the context of Sexual Violence: This policy refers to the offence of sexual assault to align with the current offence contained in the Criminal Code. The word “rape” is no longer used in criminal statutes in Canada. The term was replaced many years ago to acknowledge that sexual violence is not about sex but is about acts of psychological and physical violence. The term “sexual assault” provides a much broader definition and criminalizes unwanted behaviour such as touching and kissing as well as unwanted oral sex and vaginal and anal intercourse. Although the term no longer has a legal meaning in Canada, the term rape is still commonly used.