One in four Canadian women is sexually assaulted. Most women live with fear of being sexually assaulted. People don’t like to talk about it, but as a community we should all be concerned. No one should have to live in fear.
- What is sexual assault?
- Is there a difference between sexual assault and rape?
- Where does sexual assault happen?
- Who is sexually assaulted?
- Who commits sexual assault?
- Why does sexual assault happen?
- Who is responsible for sexual assault?
- What can I do if I’ve been sexually assaulted?
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is any unwanted act of a sexual nature imposed by one person upon another. Sexual assault of any kind is a crime, including when it occurrs in a marriage or a dating relationship by a spouse or partner. Statistics show that nearly all sexual assaults are committed by men against women or girls. Although equally serious, a very small percentage of sexual assault victims are men. Sexual assault also occurs against gay, lesbian and bisexuals as well as in opposite-sex relations.
Note: The following information focuses on women, but is equally applicable to all those who are sexually assaulted.
Rape is unwanted sexual intercourse.
Under the law, sexual assault is any unwanted act of a sexual nature, including rape and any other unwanted fondling or touching.
Most people believe that sexual assault happens in “dangerous” places such as dark alleys or parking lots. The reality is that more than half of all sexual assaults take place in private homes.
All kinds of women are sexually assaulted – from every walk of life. They can be of every racial and ethnic background; rich or poor; homemakers or those who work outside the home. Alll ages and physical types are sexually assaulted, including elderly and disabled women.
It doesn’t happen to any certain “type” Of woman. Any woman can be sexually assaulted.
Most people think of sexual assault as a woman being sexually attacked by a stranger. But more than 80% of all sexual assaults are committed by men who are known to their female victims. When a woman knows the man who sexually assaults her, it is less likely that what has happened to her will be seen as a sexual assault, even by her. She is also less likely to be believed. But these sexual assaults are no less a crime than those committed by strangers. Men who commit sexual assault are from every background — rich and poor; of every racial and ethnic group; and are in every kind of job and profession. Men who commit sexual assault can be the husbands, partners, relatives, boyfriends, employers, co-workers, doctors, teachers or lawyers of the women they assault.
A sexual assault happens when a man thinks that his feelings and desires are more important than the woman’s feelings and desires. This attitude reflects the fact that women have not yet achieved real equality in our society.
By committing a sexual assault, the man imposes his wishes on the woman by pressure, force or other means. His “right” to get what he wants is more important to him than her right to say no. When a woman says no, many men don’t listen. Some men think she really means maybe or yes. Some men even believe that women secretly “want” or that they “deserve” to be raped. This is not true.
Under the law, women have the right to say no to any form of sex or sexual touching, even in a marriage or when dating. No means no – whatever the situation.
People who commit sexual assaults are responsible for these crimes, not their victims. What a woman wears, where she goes, what she drinks or how much, or who she talks to does not mean she is inviting sexual assault or giving up her right to say no. These myths blame the victim for the crime, not the offender.
Any woman of any age in almost any situation can be sexually attacked. If a woman is sexually assaulted it is not her fault.
Recognize that our society has a responsibility to stop all forms of sexual assault. Sexual assault is a crime.
An important first step is to learn more about sexual assault and why it happens. Many of the things we have heard about sexual assault may not be true. We need to think about our attitudes and challenge the myths. We must place responsibility for the crimes on the offenders and stop blaming the victims. Talk to others about sexual assault. You can help men and women learn that women have the right to say no — and that no means no — whatever the situation. No one has the right to pressure or force any unwanted act of sexual nature on another person.
You may know someone who has been sexually assaulted. Listen to them. Let them know that it was not their fault and that he or she is not alone. Find out what help is available in your community and relay this information to the victim. Help by locating information about sexual assault and its implications.
Everyone suffers pain and trauma from a sexual assault, even many years later. They may show this in different ways, or not show it at all. It helps to talk about it.
You might choose to tell someone you trust, such as a close friend or relative, or contact:
- a rape crisis centre or sexual assault centre
- a women’s counseling service
- a hospital assault care coordinator
- a health worker or your doctor
- the police
In order for a criminal investigation to take place, you must tell the police that you have been sexually assaulted. A medical examination may be done as soon as possible after the assault (tests for date rape drugs must be given within 72 hours after ingestion). Sometimes the people you turn to will not understand. There are others who will. Remember — you are not alone and you are not to blame.Back to Top