Sexual assault

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact within or outside a relationship

It can include anything from unwanted sexual touching to forced sexual intercourse without a person’s consent, and also includes the threat of sexual contact without consent.

Sexual assault affects people of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations

Most people know the person who assaulted them. They can be someone the survivor knows a little, such as a first date, or very well, such as a good friend or partner. Sexual assault can involve situations where sexual activity is obtained by someone abusing a position of trust, power, or authority. Many people do not tell anyone of their assault, or even realize it was an assault, until months or years later.


Sexual assault is a crime and is never the fault of the survivor

Sexual assault is a crime, whatever the past or present relationship between the people involved (married, living together, dating, friends, acquaintances, strangers). No one has the right to threaten or force another person to have sexual contact. No one has the right to abuse a position of trust, power, or authority to get another person to have sex.

Sex always requires consent

Consent is a an enthusiastic and freely given 'yes' to engage in sexual activity.

Consenting to one kind of sexual activity does not mean consent is given to another sexual activity, and consent only applies to each specific instance of sexual activity.

  • Can not be assumed or implied from silence or the absence of 'no.'

    There is no consent if the person doesn't reply.

  • Can not be given if a person is affected by alcohol or drugs, or is unconscious.

    There is no consent if someone is impaired, incapacitated, asleep, or passed out.

  • Can not be obtained through threats or coercion.

    There is no consent if the person is manipulated, pressured, or threatened.

  • Can not be obtained if someone abuses a position of trust, power, or authority.

    There is no consent if someone uses a position of power or authority to get someone to engage in unwanted sexual activity.

  • Is revocable at any time.

    Consent does not exist if someone has said 'yes,' but then says 'no' later with words or body language.

  • Does not exist if someone has said 'no' with words or body language.


Alcohol is involved in over 80% of sexual assaults.

You are responsible for determining whether consent is being given before and during the sexual activity. This includes ensuring that the person you're seeking consent from is not affected by alcohol or drugs and is able to freely give consent. Your own intoxication can not be used as a defence against failing to get consent.

Sexual assault is not the survivor's fault and is a violent crime. What clothes a person wore, where they were, who they were with, or whether they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of their assault is irrelevant. The only person responsible for a sexual assault is the person who commits the crime.

Common reactions

Each survivor of sexual assault has their own personal experience, emotions, and ways of coping. There is no right or wrong way for a survivor to feel or react following a sexual assault.

Sexual assault: A few common reactions

  • A change in how the survivor feels about themself. For example, lowered self-esteem or confidence.
  • A change in how the survivor feels about their body. For example, feeling unclean, detached from their body, or wanting to harm their body.
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach problems, or eating and sleeping problems.
  • Emotional symptoms such as mood swings or feelings of loss, grief, anger, rage, irritability, or depression.
  • Using alcohol, drugs, food, or exercise to cope with intense feelings.
  • Lack of motivation and difficulty concentrating.
  • Problems with sexual intimacy, wanting less or more sex, a change in pleasure, or a change in emotional connection.

Support survivors and help end the violence

Learn more about what you can do to support survivors of sexual assault and how you can help end the violence.