Sexual assault

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact within or outside a relationship. Sexual assault is a crime and is never the fault of the survivor.

Support for student survivors of sexual assault

If you have been sexually assaulted, the first steps you should take include ensuring your safety, going to a safe space, and seeking medical attention.

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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.

15 - 25% of female students1, 6.1% of male students2, and 24% of transgender, genderqueer and questioning students3 in college and university experience some form of sexual assault.

1 Developing a Response to Sexual Violence: A Resource Guide for Ontario’s Colleges and Universities, Ontario Women’s Directorate, 2013

2 Krebs, C.P., Lindquist, C.H., Warner, T.D., Fisher, B.S., & Martin, S.L. (2007). The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice

3 Cantor, D., Fisher, B., et al. (2015). Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. Rockville, Maryland: The Association of American Universities.

Learn more about consent and healthy relationships

How a survivor may feel after experiencing sexual assault

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.

Here are 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.

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