Sexual Assault

What is Sexual Assault?

According to the Criminal Code of Canada, sexual assault refers to any situation where somebody touches you in a sexual way without your consent.  Rape falls under the umbrella term of sexual assault.  All forms of sexual assault are criminal offences and are serious and legitimate offences to be reported to the police.

Types of Sexual Assault (from the Canadian Criminal Code)

Section 271 Sexual Assault: Somebody touches you in a sexual way on purpose, directly or indirectly, without your consent.

Section 272 Sexual Assault with A Weapon, Threats to a Third Party or Causing Bodily Harm:  Somebody sexually assaults you and is armed with, or uses, a weapon, or forces you to have sex by threatening to do injury to somebody else.

Section 273 Aggravated Sexual Assault: Somebody sexually assaults you and they cause serious injuries.


A person who is impaired may not be able to give legal consent if they are unable to communicate clearly, or if their judgment is found to be impaired. The court individually assesses each case of sexual assault involving alcohol or drugs to determine whether the victim was able to give legal consent. If the offender uses force, threatens bodily harm, or lies to the victim about what they plan to do, and the victim says, “yes,” this is not consent.

Statistics Canada 2006 reports that 4 out of 5 female undergraduates on Canadian campuses are victims of violence in dating relationships.

1/5 of male students agreed that forced sex is acceptable if someone spends money on a date, is stoned or drunk, or has been dating someone for a long time. (H. Johnson 1996, Dangerous Domains:VAW in Canada p115-120)

Sexual assault is far more common than most would suspect

  • Relatively few incidents of sexual assault are reported to the police
  • Young and otherwise vulnerable women are most likely to be sexually abused
  • Most sexual assaults are committed by someone close to the victim, not a stranger

More than 80% of rapes that occur on university and college campuses are committed by someone the victim knows. Many of them happen in the first eight weeks of classes. (University of Alberta –Sexual Assault Law in Canada)