Sexual assault is defined here as any unwanted act of a sexual nature that is imposed on another person. Nearly all sexual assaults are committed by men. Men and boys can be victims of sexual violence, but the majority of sexual assault survivors are women and girls, with 99% of the perpetrators male (Ottawa-Carleton Sexual Assault Protocol, Ottawa 1997).
Sexual assault is a crime of power, control and violence. It is not about a man’s need for sex, nor is it about mentally ill or crazed perpetrators. Rapists are ordinary "normal" men.
"Violence against women is pervasive in Canada...The connection between these acts of violence and the inequality of women is clear. All women in Canada are vulnerable to male violence. Race, class, age, sexual orientation, level of ability and other objective characteristics, alone or in combination, compound the risk. Until all women achieve equality, they will remain vulnerable to violence, and until women are free from violence, they cannot be equal."
("Changing the Landscape: Ending Violence and Achieving Equality" Final Report, the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women, 1993).
Barrier to equality
Sexual assault is a barrier to women’s equality because it is linked to sexist assumptions about the subordinate status of women and children in society. Sexual assault is a crime of violence. It is often mistakenly considered to be a sexual act. This misunderstanding of the issue leads to mistaken ideas about how to avoid sexual assault.
If you believe, for instance, that only young, sexually attractive women are assaulted, then you may also believe that wearing "provocative" clothing is also a cause of sexual assault. Sexual assault is the only crime where the victim is seen to be responsible. We never question why the victim of a mugging was wearing a gold watch or why the victim of a store robbery handed over all the money in the cash register. But a victim of sexual assault is often asked what she did to contribute to being assaulted. These questions and attitudes blame the victim and protect the offender.
How the Law Defines Sexual Assault
The following terms are defined according to the Criminal Code of Canada.
Sexual Assault - Kissing, fondling, sexual intercourse, anal intercourse and oral sex are all examples of sexual assault, if done without the person’s consent. No sign of physical injury or abuse is required to charge someone with sexual assault.
Sexual Assault with a Weapon – a person may be charged with sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm if:
- a weapon (an imitation or a real weapon) is used during the assault or someone threatens to use a weapon;
- someone threatens to hurt someone else, for instance, the assaulted person’s child or friend;
- someone physically hurts another;
- someone was with another person, or other people, who sexually assaulted someone.
Aggravated sexual assault – a person may be charged with aggravated sexual assault if, while sexually assaulting someone he/she also:
- wounded, disabled, disfigured or brutally beat someone;
- endangered someone’s life
Depending on what happened, a person may be charged with several crimes. For instance, if someone is grabbed in an elevator, taken to a person’s apartment and forced to have sexual intercourse, the attacker could be charged with sexual assault and kidnapping.
Sexual Interference (against children under 16) – it is a crime if someone, for a sexual purpose, touches any part of the body of a child (under the age of 16).
Invitation to sexual touching (against children under 16) – it is a crime if someone, for a sexual purpose, encourages a child to touch him/her with any part of the child’s body or with an object. It is also a crime if someone, for a sexual purpose, encourages a child to touch his or her own body or the body of someone else.
Sexual exploitation (against children aged 16 to 17) - it is a crime if someone who is in a position of trust or authority with whom the young person is in a relationship of dependency, commits the offences of “sexual interference” or “invitation to sexual touching” described above. A person in a position of authority can be a parent, step-parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher, coach, babysitter, group-home worker or employer.
Incest – it is a crime if a blood relation has sexual intercourse knowing that the other person is a blood relation(e.g. parent, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister or grandparent) .
Exposure – it is a crime if someone, for a sexual purpose, exposes his or her genitals to a person who is under the age of 16 (if this happens to someone over the age of 16, this is still against the law if it happens in a public place).
Offence in relation to juvenile prostitution – it is a crime if someone obtains or attempts to obtain the sexual services of a person who is under the age of 16.