What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is a form of assault that involves any type of unwanted sexual activity. A sexual assault occurs when consent has not been given and the sexual integrity of the victim is violated. It may include the use of physical force, threats or intimidation. Sexual assault is a crime and Canadian law recognizes that persons of both genders can be victims of sexual assault.

Sexual assault is an assault, within the definition of s.265 (1) of the Criminal Code, which is committed in circumstances of a sexual nature. Sexual assault occurs when,

  • a person intentionally “applies force” to another person;
  • this is done without the victim’s consent or voluntary agreement; and
  • sexual activity is involved.

There are also two other categories of sexual assault in the Criminal Code, including:

  • Sexual Assault with a Weapon, Threats to a Third Party or Causing Bodily Harm (s.272) – punishable by way of indictable offence and liable to a maximum term of 14 years imprisonment; and
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault (s.273) – this refers to a sexual assault during which an offender wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the victim and is punishable by way of indictable offence and liable to a maximum term of life imprisonment.

Sexual assault does not necessarily have to be forced or violent, under s. 265 (2) of the Criminal Code, sexual assault (as well as other types of assault) can be prosecuted if the offender has threatened the victim.