Sexual assault is a form of gender-based violence that effects Canadian women and men every day. It is important to be educated about sexual assault – below are seven facts that everyone should know about this crime:
Sexual assault is common. According to Statistics Canada, women self-reported 553,000 sexual assaults in 2014. While men are sexually assaulted as well, women make up more than 90% of all reported sexual assault cases. Sexual assault is the only violent crime in Canada that is not declining. Young people are far more likely to be sexually assaulted – Canadians between 18-24 are eighteen times more likely to be assaulted than are Canadians over 55. Women who are single, low-income, Aboriginal or disabled have a higher risk of being sexually assaulted.
There are different kinds of sexual assault. In Canada, there are three levels: level one causes little or no physical injury; level two involves a weapon, threat or bodily harm and; level three involves physical wounds, disfigurement, or a threat to the life of the survivor. While level one is the most common form of sexual assault, it can lead to long lasting mental health issues including suicide.
Most victims know their perpetrator. Although many critics hold the victim accountable for assaults by saying they should not meet up with strangers, roughly eighty percent of perpetrators are known personally by the victim.
Without consent, any sexual contact is an assault. Partners have a responsibility to communicate with one another verbally and non-verbally. Consent cannot be given in a situation which involves an abuse of trust, power or authority. Anyone under the age of consent cannot give consent.
Sexual assault is not sexual harassment. Sexual assault refers to unwanted sexual contact, while sexual harassment comes in the form of unwanted remarks and behaviour. This can include telling jokes, sharing personal stories, or openly commenting on another person’s body, sex, or sexuality.
It is difficult for victims to speak up. Victims may be paralyzed by feelings of guilt, shame or embarrassment. Since victims often know the perpetrator, there is often a feeling that if they speak up, they may ruin the perpetrator’s life and be ostracised for doing so. If the perpetrator is in a position of authority in the family or community, many victims feel as though their accusations would not be believed.
Education can help end sexual assault. If we are committed to educating ourselves and those around us about sexual assault and the importance of consent, we can help minimize and maybe one day eradicate sexual violence from of society.
If you or someone who you know has been a victim of sexual assault, please contact Sexual Assault Support Centre of the Kitchener-Waterloo Region at (519) 741-8633.
What are the Criminal Code provisions for sexual assault?
Under section 271 of the Criminal Code of Canada, a person can be charged for committing a sexual assault. This section of the Code gives the range of possible punishments. This range will vary depending on how the Crown Attorney chooses to prosecute the case. If the Crown Attorney prosecutes the case by indictment (used in the more serious cases), the maximum is ten (10) years in jail. If the Crown Attorney chooses summary conviction (less serious cases, and a faster procedure), the maximum punishment is eighteen (18) months. The range of possible sentences will also change depending on the age of the victim. For more information on this, see our article on the minimum possible sentence for sexual assault in Canada.