Bystander Initiative | What is sexual assault?
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What is sexual assault?

ARE YOU EXPERIENCING A CRISIS? To speak to a sexual assault counsellor right now, phone the 24-hour crisis line at 519-253-9667

Sexual violence includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism, degrading sexual imagery, distribution of sexual images or video without consent, cyber harassment and cyber stalking, but it isn’t limited to those activities.

Tea Consent

Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault.


Consent is never assumed or implied.


Consent is not silence or the absence of “no”.


Consent cannot be given if the victim is impaired by alcohol or drugs, or is unconscious. Consent can never be obtained through threats or coercion.


Consent can be revoked at any time.


Consent cannot be obtained if the perpetrator abuses a position of trust, power or authority.


Consent to one kind or instance of sexual activity does not mean that consent has been given to any other sexual activity or instance.


Sexual assault is an act of violence and power over another person.


Sexual assault can be perpetrated by strangers; however, most of the time, the assailant is known to the victim. No one looks like a perpetrator. Assailants can be co-workers, friends, partners, spouses, neighbours, or relatives.


There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about sexual violence. No matter what, we all have the right to say yes or no to sexual activity. There is no behaviour, manner of dress, or situation that justifies the perpetration of sexual violence. Assailants are responsible for sexual assaults. If you are a victim of sexual assault, you have done nothing wrong, you are not to blame, and it is not your fault.


Material excerpted from Ontario Women’s Directorate and Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (OWD/ MTCU, 2013). Developing a response to sexual violence: A resource guide for Ontario’s colleges and universities. Toronto: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.