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Sexual violence

Sexual violence is an act of violence through unwanted or non-consensual sexual behaviour. Consent is defined as someone wanting the sexual act. If the act is unwanted, it is non-consensual. Sexual violence includes, but is not limited to, sexual assault and other sexual offences included in the Criminal Code of Canada.

Sexual violence is primarily a crime committed by men against women. Younger women under 25 in dating relationships are at higher risk, but married and common law women in abusive relationships also experience sexual violence. Sexual violence is about power, control and humiliation over an individual which includes physical and psychological abuse.

Men who commit sexual violence are not mentally ill or sexually frustrated. A woman’s body is her own—she has control over her sexual activity. Just because a woman is a wife or girlfriend or previous partner does not mean that her partner can make those choices for her.

In Ottawa, the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women found that eight women are assaulted every day. Only one will report this to the police.

Here are some myths and facts you ought to know:

1. MYTH: Most sexual assault is committed by a stranger.
FACT: Approximately 75 to 80% of offenders of sexual assaults are known to the survivor.

2. MYTH: Women falsely accuse men as an act of revenge.
FACT: Women rarely make false accusations. In fact, it is also known that less than 10% of survivors report sexual assaults, and that a lower percentage of these would be from intimate relationships.  Reports have indicated that the home is the number one location where sexual assault occurs about 80% of the time.

3. MYTH: A woman “asks for it” through dress, intoxication or actions.

  • It does not matter WHERE she was
  • It does not matter WHAT she was doing
  • It does not matter WHAT she was wearing
  • It does not matter IF she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Everyone has the right to be asked for their consent. Consent CANNOT be given when a woman is intoxicated, being pressured or is experiencing an imbalance of power (i.e. an employer and employee). Consent is a clear message that the sexual act you discussed is wanted or invited. One sexual act does not imply consent for another. Without consent, any sexual act is unacceptable.

Survivors of sexual violence can access resources—many of which are free—in the Ottawa region. Although survivors had no control over the assault, they do have options in their response, and are actively involved in the process of reclaiming their personal power.

See the Victims of Crime section of the Toolkit for resources for support and referrals concerning sexual violence.