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Violence against women

Sexual assault
Learn about rape trauma syndrome, date rape, and the impact of rape on relationships

Domestic violence
Learn why it happens and how to get help.

Child sexual abuse/incest
Learn how to spot child sexual abuse and how to report it.

Violence against women

Sexual assault, sexual harassment, and stalking

Women's Web gratefully acknowledges the University of Alberta Sexual Assault Center (UASAC) for granting us permission to reprint its materials and resources on our website. Be sure to visit the UASAC website for additional information, resources, and link to other sites.

If you have been sexually assaulted, be sure to go immediately to your local hospital or police detachment. If you are unable to get to a hospital, call the police, your community sexual assault center, or your community's 24-hour crisis line.

Sexual assault is a serious crime. Compassionate support is available and such crimes must be reported to the police.

What is sexual assault?

In Canada, sexual assault is the legal term used to refer to any form of sexual contact without voluntary consent. Kissing, fondling, sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, and oral sex are all examples of sexual assault if they are done without voluntary consent.

Consent obtained by force through pressure, coercion, force, or threats of force is not voluntary consent.

What is consent?

Under §273.1 of Canada's Criminal Code and in reference to sexual assaults, "consent" refers to:

the voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question.

Consent is not given if:

  • It is given by someone else;
  • The person is unconscious, drunk, stoned, or sleeping;
  • It is an abuse of power, trust, or authority;
  • The person does not say yes, says no, or through words or behavior implies no; or
  • The person changes her or his mind.

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is any unwanted comment, gesture, or action of a sexual nature. An example of harassment may be a group of males outside the cafeteria who are rating all females as they walk by.

Sexual harassment includes unwanted attention, demands, or a pattern of jokes or insults that affect your job, work, school environment, or chances to obtain a service.

In Canada, sexual harassment falls under Human Rights Law, a civil legislation, and not the Criminal Code of Canada. If you are a resident of Canada, sexual harassment may be reported to your provincial or territorial human rights commission, rather than to your police detachment.

What is stalking?

Under §264 of Canada's Criminal Code,

No person shall, without lawful authority and knowing that another person is harassed or recklessly as to whether the other person is harassed, engage in conduct referred to in subsection (2) that causes that other person reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.

The conduct mentioned in Subsection (1) consists of:

  • Repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them;
  • Repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone known to them;
  • Besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries on business or happens to be; or
  • Engaging in threatening conduct directed at the person or any member of their family

In Canada, every person who contravenes this section is guilty of

  • An indictable offense and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or
  • An offense punishable on summary conviction.

Stalking can be broadly defined as willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following or harassing another person.

Being stalked can be a frightening, frustrating, and life changing experience.

Violence against women

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