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Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act done by one person to another. It can affect you in many ways and in different areas of your life. Remember, it is never your fault. Through this section, you can learn more about sexual assault and where you can turn to get help.

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Sexual assault is any sexual activity that happens without your consent. Consent is when you freely say or do something that communicates that you want to take part in a particular sexual activity.

No matter what someone says, you did not give consent if:

  • Someone forced, pressured, or threatened you
  • You were asleep or unconscious
  • You were under the influence of alcohol or another substance
  • You are a minor, and the person was in a position of trust, power, or authority

Sexual assault can include any form of unwanted sexual contact including:

  • Sexual touching without consent
  • Pressuring someone into having sex
  • Forced kissing
  • Forced sex
  • Rape

The chart below has examples of sexual violence that range from sending unwanted pictures to rape. It also shows how something like using sexist language can lead to or support sexual violence.

Sexual assault can happen to anyone of any gender. Some people are more at risk including:

  • Girls and young women
  • People with disabilities
  • Indigenous people
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2S+) folks
  • People who use substances
  • Homeless people or those without stable housing

Anyone can commit a sexual assault. Sexual assault is almost always committed by someone you already know – like a classmate, friend, teacher, coach, family member, acquaintance or someone you are dating. Sexual assault can also be committed by a stranger.

What happened to you was not your fault.  This is true even if you:

  • Flirted with the person who sexually assaulted you
  • Used alcohol or other substances
  • Consented to having sex with that person in the past
  • Consented to some sexual activities (like kissing or making out)
  • Changed your mind after you gave consent

It does not matter what you did (or did not do) before, during or after the assault. It is okay if you tried to get away or tried to make it stop. It is also okay if you just froze and did not fight back or say ‘no’. The only person at fault is the person who sexually assaulted you. It can be hard to tell whether or not you’ve experienced sexual assault.  It can be even more difficult to decide whether or not to tell someone. If you think you have experienced sexual assault, it is your decision what to do next. You may decide to get a forensic medical exam at a hospital, which can provide legal evidence about the assault. This exam should be done as soon as possible after the assault (up to 1 week after the assault); you can decide later if you would like to report the assault to the police.

Deciding to tell someone and seek support is a brave first step. You are not alone – find more information here.

Supporting Others

Many people who are sexually assaulted will tell a friend or peer before they will tell an adult. The way you respond can make a big difference to how they feel now and in the future. You do not need to be an expert to help them. If someone tells you they were sexually assaulted, or thinks they might have been sexually assaulted:

  • Listen to what they have to say
  • Believe them, don’t question them
  • Support them by explaining their options, going with them to the hospital (if they want medical care) or to the police (if they want to report the assault), or just being with them

It can be difficult to hear someone share that they were sexually assaulted. You may feel angry, sad, helpless or confused. It is important that you take care of yourself. This can include doing an activity you enjoy or talking to a trusted adult or counsellor. You might also decide to join a support group for friends and family of people who have been hurt in this way. Contact VictimLinkBC to learn about and connect with available resources.

If it’s safe to, it’s important to say something if you think an act of sexual violence or assault might take place, or if you hear people talking in a way that supports sexual violence. We all have a role in stopping sexual violence.

What Next?

Want to explore and learn more? Here are a couple options that will help you.