What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence is one of the most complex and harmful challenges facing societies today. It includes a broad range of behaviours, some of which are crimes in the Canadian Criminal Code (e.g., sexual assault or harassment) and others which are normalized in our everyday interactions at work, school, and in our friend groups (e.g., attitudes, jokes, and comments). Anyone can be impacted by sexual violence but some people are at higher risk of being victimized because of their gender, culture, race, health, ability, economic status and age. Sexual violence affects individuals physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can create lasting trauma and harm that reaches beyond survivors into families, communities, and future generations. 


Sexual Assault: Any sexual contact made against a person without their consent. It can take different forms (e.g., intercourse, groping, putting your mouth on someone). It is a crime in the Criminal Code of Canada with three levels of severity.

Sexual Harassment: Refers to any unwelcome sexual comments or physical contact. It is behavior that creates a hostile environment, and behavior that inappropriately promises reward or punishment for complying with sexual acts.

Rape: A form of sexual assault that is defined as sexual penetration without consent. Not all sexual assault is rape.

Sexual Coercion: Unwanted sexual contact that happens when you are pressured, tricked, Sexual Coercion threatened, or forced in a non-physical way.

Gender-based Violence: Violence that is committed against someone based on their gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender.