Here are some resources to help you understand and learn more about sexual violence and consent.
What is sexual violence?
Sexual violence is any violence, physical or psychological, carried out without consent through a sexual means or by targeting sexuality. This includes, but is not limited to sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism, degrading sexual imagery, distribution of sexual images or video of a community member without their consent.
What is consent?
In Canada, the law very clearly states that there has to be an affirmative “yes” - or voluntary agreement - to engage in sexual activity. Sexual assault occurs when consent is absent and it is a criminal offence. This means that consent must be an active process, without the influence of coercion. One should never assume consent.
For more information about consent:
Common myths about sexual violence
Here are examples of some commonly heard myths (source):
MYTH: Many people who claim to have been sexually assaulted are actually lying about it.
FACT: Sexual assault is a vastly underreported crime. According to Statistics Canada, only 8% of all sexual assaults are reported to the police. Of these, only 2-3% are found to be false allegations. This is the same percentage as false reports of other crimes such as robbery, theft and break and enters. People don't lie about sexual assault more than they lie about any other type of crime.
Some people point to so-called "inconsistencies" in survivors' stories of assault to "prove" that they are lying. However, it is common for survivors of any kind of trauma to forget or confuse details of what happened. Inconsistencies do not mean the person is lying; they mean the person has experienced trauma and is having a normal reaction to trauma. Sometimes, people find it hard to believe that their friend is telling the truth about sexual assault if the perpetrator is someone known to them. Since 85% of assaults are committed by someone the survivor knows, it is likely that whoever the survivor chooses to confide in will also know the perpetrator. This does not mean the assault did not happen. What it does mean is that no one can tell what a perpetrator looks like, sounds like, or acts like.
MYTH: You can tell whether or not someone was assaulted based on how they act. Someone who was sexually assaulted will be quiet, withdrawn and never want to have sex again.
FACT: There are many reactions someone can have to a sexual assault. Some reactions may include feeling angry, sad, lonely, betrayed, violated or numb. In terms of reactions, some people may want to be around their friends all the time, while others will want to withdraw. Some people may decrease the amount of sexual activity they have while others may increase it. Some may abuse drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. Some may change their sleeping patterns. Some will have no outward reaction at all. There is no right or wrong way to respond to a sexual assault. However a person feels, and whatever a person does to cope, is what that person needs to do to survive the experience.
MYTH: If a person is sexually assaulted when they are drunk, they are at least somewhat responsible because they put themselves in a risky situation.
FACT: Many people think drinking is socially acceptable. This is reinforced when we watch beer commercials over the summer, see advertisements for spirits over the winter holiday season, and drink wine with our meals. Many people drink heavily at parties or camping trips and later tell their friends about how much fun they had. Yet if someone is assaulted at one of these parties, people blame that person for being in a "risky" situation that was not seen as risky before the assault. The determining factor in a sexual assault is not how much the survivor drank. The only person responsible for sexual assault is the perpetrator. Some people argue that we all need to be responsible for our behaviour. It is true that people must be responsible for what they do if and when they drink. People are responsible for getting themselves home safely, for getting to work or school on time the next day, and for anything they do. However, people are not responsible for what other people do to them. If someone assaults a drunk person, the only person responsible is the person who committed the assault.
Other Consent Resources
- Consent and Canadian law
- 2 Minutes Will Change the Way You Think About Consent
- Wanna Have Sex? (Consent 101) – Laci Green
- TedTalk Restart the Conversation: Educating Youth on Healthy Sexual Consent – Jonathan Kalin
- TED Talk Violence against women – it’s a men’s issue – Jackson Katz
- When you know they’re into it
- When They’re Kinda Into It
- When They’re Just Not Into It