Home/Assault/What is Considered Sexual Assault?

Throughout the world, the legal definition of sexual assault varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. 

In common language, people use many terms to refer to sexual assault, like “sexual abuse” and “sexual violence,” because sexual assault can occur in many different forms, including unwanted sexual acts and advances, such as sexual harassment, and all forms sexual violence.

If You Have Been a Victim, Seek Legal Help

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Victims of abuse, assault, sexual violence and rape are often hesitant to reach out for help. But a qualified lawyer will always be a reliable and trustworthy source of support, one that will work with you in a compassionate manner and make sure that justice will be served.

If you think that you, or someone you know, has been in a situation where you think someone was sexually assaulted, or some form of sexual harassment has taken place, you should contact a sexual assault lawyer.

Canadian Definition of Sexual Assault

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In Canada, rather than limiting the definition to a specific act or contact with a specific part of the human anatomy, sexual assault is any assault of a sexual nature that violates the sexual integrity of the victim. The specific definitions of offences are grouped together as “sexual offences” in the Criminal Code

In order to determine if an undesired act of sexual contact constitutes sexual assault, officials will take the following elements of the situation into consideration:

  • The nature of the contact or bodily harm
  • The situation in which the contact occurred
  • Any words, gestures, threats or other circumstances involved in the act

Essentially, a sexual offence occurs in situations where another person has not consented to the activities in question.

What is Consent?

"Only yes is yes" written on blackboard

In short, consent should never be assumed, it must be explicit and can be withdrawn at any time. Consent can never be obtained through threats or coercion. 

In Canadian law, the definition of consent is “the voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question.”

Anything short of this kind of voluntary agreement does not legally constitute consent. For added clarity, subsection 273.1(2) lays out the following specific situations where there is no legal consent, including: 

  • Where the agreement is expressed by the words or conduct of a person other than the complainant.
  • Where the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity.
  • Where the accused induces the complainant to engage in the activity by abusing a position of trust, power or authority.
  • Where the complainant expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to engage in the activity.
  • Where 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.

Types of Sexual Offences Listed in the Criminal Code of Canada

According to the Criminal Code of Canada, these are some of the sexual offences that could lead to criminal charges:

  • Aggravated or common sexual assault
  • Agreement or arrangement by a means of telecommunication to commit a sexual offence against a child
  • Child pornography
  • Corrupting children
  • Exposure
  • Incest
  • Invitation to sexual touching
  • Luring a child by a means of telecommunication or Internet luring 
  • Making sexually explicit material available to a child
  • Sexual assault committed outside Canada and child sex tourism
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Voyeurism

This is not an exhaustive list of what can be prosecuted as sexual assault in Canada. The Canadian legal framework, under the guidance of the Supreme Court and direction of the Department of Justice, is in constant evolution and subject to change, and there are other forms of abuse, sexual offences and violence that are subject to prosecution under federal law.  

Sexual Violence: Separating Myths From Reality

Myth: Sexual assault is most often a random act committed by a stranger.

Reality: The perpetrators of sexual violence are usually someone known to the victim. Acquaintances, dating partners or spouses commit the large majority of sexual assaults. 

Myth: Sexual assault happen most often in dark, isolated areas, like parking garages. 

Reality: The overwhelming majority of sexual violence happens in private spaces, like apartments or houses. 

Myth: Sexual violence that is not reported to police cannot be deemed rape. 

Reality: If women are sexually assaulted, but the crime goes unreported, that does not mean that it did not happen or that any type of sexual violence is excusable if it goes unreported to authorities. 

Speak Out Against All Forms of Sexual Abuse

Sad woman holding head with hands

Women may hesitate to report rape, sexual assault and harassment out of fear, but they must remember that without reporting the crime, justice will never be served, which could put more women at risk. If you have been a victim, trust the local police and your lawyer to protect your rights.

If you were in a situation where you did not give consent to sexual activities, up to or including sexual intercourse, you should contact the police immediately, followed by a sexual abuse lawyer

By Published On: December 14th, 2020