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This information was translated from a pamphlet produced by the Ontario Women's Directorate. The support of the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Women's Directorate is acknowledged. CaNetiq is not responsible for the quality of this information. It was developed as a resource for Canadians and is provided as a reference only. The laws and statistics for other countries vary.


SEXUAL ASSAULT : What it means.

In Canada, one woman in four is a victim of sexual assault and the majority of women live in the fear of one day being a victim of sexual assault.

People are often reluctant to talk about it, but as members of a community, we should all be concerned about this situation. Nobody should have to live in fear.

This pamphlet presents the facts concerning sexual assaults. It will help us to understand this serious problem and to begin to talk about it.

WHAT IS A SEXUAL ASSAULT?

A sexual assault is any act of an unwanted sexual nature, forced by one person on another person.

Any form of sexual assault is a crime, even if it occurs between people who are married or who are dating.

Statistics show that almost all sexual assaults are committed by men towards women or children. A very small percentage of the victims of sexual assaults are adult men.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEXUAL ASSAULT AND RAPE?

Rape is unwanted sexual intercourse.

The law defines sexual assault as any act of an unwanted sexual nature, including rape and unwanted touching and caressing.

WHERE DOES SEXUAL ASSAULT OCCUR?

A majority of people believe that sexual assaults occur in "dangerous" places like back alleys or parking lots. But more than half of all sexual assaults occur in private homes.

WHO ARE THE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT?

All types of women are victims of sexual assaults... women of all social groups. They can be of any racial or ethnic origin. They can be rich or poor. They are housewives or women who work outside the home.

Women of all ages and all physical abilities are victims of sexual assaults, including older women and women with disabilities.

There is no one "type" of woman in particular. All women can be victims of sexual assaults.

WHO COMMITS SEXUAL ASSAULTS?

The majority of people consider sexual assault to be a sexual attack on a woman by a stranger. But more than half of all sexual assaults are committed by men the victims already know.

When a woman knows the man who commits the sexual assault, it is unlikely that what happened to her will be regarded as a sexual assault, even by her.

She is also less likely to be believed.

But these sexual assaults are just as criminal as those committed by strangers.

All types of men commit sexual assaults: rich and poor, members of all racial and ethnic group, and in all kinds of employment and professions.

Men who commit sexual assaults can be the husband, an associate, a relative, a friend, an employee, a work-colleague, or the doctor, professor or lawyer of the woman they attack.

WHY DO SEXUAL ASSAULTS OCCUR?

A sexual assault occurs when a man thinks his feelings and desires are more important than the feelings and desires of the woman. This attitude reflects a belief by some that women are not the equal of men in our society.

By committing a sexual assault, a man imposes what he wants on the woman, either by pressuring her, or by using force or other means. His "right" to obtain what he wants is more important to him than the woman's right to say no.

When a woman says no, many men do not listen. Certain men think she actually wants to say yes or "maybe". Certain men even believe that women secretly "want" to be violated or than they "deserve" to be. That is wrong.

Under the law, women have the right to say no to any sexual act or sexual contact, even if they are married to the man in question or dating him. No means no... whatever the situation.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR A SEXUAL ASSAULT?

People who commit sexual assaults are responsible for these crimes, not the victims.

The way a woman dresses, the places she frequents, what she drinks, or the people she talks to-none of these is an invitation for sexual assault nor does it take away her right to say no. These are myths that make the victim responsible for the crime instead of the attacker.

Any woman of any age, in almost any situation, can be the victim of a sexual assault. If a woman is a victim of a sexual assault, it is not her fault.

WHAT CAN I DO?

We must all recognize that our society has a responsibility to stop sexual assault in all its forms. Sexual assault is a crime.

A first significant step is to know more about sexual assaults and why they occur. Much of what we tend to believe about sexual assault is wrong. We must reflect on our attitudes and overturn the myths. We must place the responsibility for these crimes on the attackers and stop blaming the victims. Talk to others about sexual assault. You can help both men and women realize that women have the right to say no... and that no means no, whatever the situation. Nobody has the right to impose any act of an unwanted sexual nature on another person.

Perhaps you know a woman who is a victim of sexual assault. Listen to her. Tell her it was not her fault and that she is not alone. Find out where she can get support in your area and tell her about it. Give her this pamphlet.

WHAT CAN I DO IF I AM A VICTIM OF SEXUAL ASSAULT?

Every woman suffers and is traumatized by a sexual assault, even several years later. She may show this in various ways, or not at all. It would be best for you to talk to someone about it.

You can choose to tell someone you trust, like a close friend or relative, or you can contact:
  • a rape or sexual assault crisis centre;
  • a women's centre;
  • a hospital sexual assault care co-ordinator;
  • a professor or counselor;
  • a health-care worker or your doctor.
If you want a criminal investigation, you must tell the police that you were the victim of a sexual assault. A medical examination may be necessary. In that case, it must be carried out as soon as possible after the assault.

Sometimes people you talk to may not understand. But there are people who do understand. Always remember: you are not alone and it was not your fault.

This pamphlet is also available in:
French, Italian, Punjabi
Spanish, Persian, Tamil
Chinese, Polish, Vietnamese
Greek, Portuguese


This information was translated from a pamphlet produced by the Ontario Women's Directorate. The support of the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Women's Directorate is acknowledged. CaNetiq is not responsible for the quality of this information. It was developed as a resource for Canadians and is provided as a reference only. The laws and statistics for other countries vary.


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