Myths and Facts about Sexual Violence

Sexual violence encompasses a broad range of unwanted sexual activity. Any unwanted sexual contact is considered to be sexual violence. A complainant can be severely affected by all forms of sexual violence including unwanted fondling, rubbing, kissing or other sexual acts. Many forms of sexual violence involve no physical contact such as stalking or distributing intimate visual recordings. All of these acts are serious and can be damaging. 

Sexual assault can and does happen to everyone. People of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds as well as sexual orientations and gender identifications can be, and are, impacted by sexual assault.

Heightened risk factors exist for women, members of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, women with disabilities, women of colour, Indigenous women, women living in poverty, when drugs or alcohol are involved, and at mass events such as festivals and concerts. Research suggests that these risk factors increase at universities during the first two months of the academic year, and at the beginning of July and on New Year's Eve. 

Someone known to the complainant, including acquaintances, dating partners and common-law or married partners, commit approximately 82 per cent of all sexual assaults. 

The majority of sexual assaults happen in private spaces such as a residence or private home. 

Just because a victim doesn't report the assault doesn't mean it didn't happen. Fewer than one in 10 victims report the crime to the police. 

If a person is unconscious or incapable of consenting due to the use of alcohol or drugs, they cannot legally give consent. Without consent, it is sexual assault. 

This is a prominent misconception about sexual assault. No one can consent while drunk or incapacitated. 

When a person is sexually assaulted they may become paralyzed with fear and unable to fight back. They may be fearful that if they struggle, the assault may become more violent. If the person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may be incapacitated or unable to resist. 

People who commit sexual assault are trying to gain power and control over the other person. They want to make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the other person to say no. A person does not actually need to say the word "no" to make it clear they did not want to participate. Consent is not the absence of 'no', it is a clear, enthusiastic and freely given 'yes'.

Every person responds to the trauma of sexual assault differently. They may cry or be calm. They may be silent or very angry. Their reaction is not an indicator of their experience. It is important not to judge a person by the response to the assault.

Lack of physical injury does not mean that a person wasn't sexually assaulted. The use of threats, weapons or other coercive actions do not leave physical marks. They may have been unconscious or been otherwise incapacitated and therefore unable to provide consent.

Shock, fear, embarrassment and distress can all impair memory. Many individuals attempt to minimize or forget the details of the assault as a method for coping with trauma. Memory loss is also common when alcohol and/or drugs are involved. 

According to Statistics Canada, fewer than one in ten sexual assaults are reported to the police. Approximately two per cent of sexual assault reports are false. The number of false reports for sexual assault is very low. Sexual assault carries such a stigma that many people prefer not to report. 

Research suggests heightened risk factors include living with activity limitations, living in poverty, being female, being Indigenous, being a member of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, and being 15-24 years old. Those who live with activity limitations are over two times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than those who are able-bodied. 

Sexual assault can occur in a married or other intimate partner relationship. The truth is, sexual assault occurs any time there is not consent for sexual activity or sexual contact of any kind. Being in a relationship does not exclude the possibility of, nor justify, sexual assault. A person has the right to say 'no' at any point.

This statement could not be more hurtful or wrong. Nobody ask to be sexually assaulted. Ever. Nobody deserves to be sexually assaulted. Someone has deliberately chosen to be violent toward someone else and to not get consent. No mode of dress, no amount of alcohol or drugs ingested, no matter what the relationship is between the individuals, sexual assault is always wrong. Sexual assault is never okay and it is never your fault.

The majority of reported sexual assaults are committed against women by men, but people of all genders and from all backgrounds have been and can be assaulted. 

According to Statistics Canada, six per cent of males 15 years or older reported that they had experienced sexual assault. Barriers to reporting mean this number is likely higher as it only reflects the experience of those who have reported the assault. 

It is normal for your body to react to physical stimulation. Just because you became physically aroused does not mean that you liked it or wanted it or consented in any way. If you experienced some physical pleasure, this does not take away the fact that sexual assault happened or the effects or feelings following an assault.