What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is not hard to define. Generally, it means any unwanted, forced sexual contact. It can be committed by the use of threats or force or when someone takes advantage of circumstances that render a person incapable of giving consent, such as intoxication. Sexual assault can include unwanted touching, fondling, or groping of sexual body parts.
What is consent?
Consent is an agreement that 2 people must make if they want to have sex. Consent means that you willingly give permission, through your words or actions, for something to happen. Your consent to the sexual activity must be freely given. You did not consent if you were afraid to fight back or if you were frozen with fear. And, you did not necessarily consent to sexual intercourse or oral sex with someone because you held hands, kissed or fondled each other. Remember: You have the right to say “no” to sexual activity, regardless of what has preceded it, and to have that “no” respected.
Facts on Sexual Assault
- 1 in 4 college women are victims of sexual assault every year.
- 84% of women who are victims of sexual assault will know their attacker.
- The risk of sexual assault is 4 times greater for women aged 16 to 24.
- 50% of all Canadian women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime.
- For women with disabilities, the figure is even higher – one study indicates that 83% of women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime.
- 51.8 % of sexual assaults occur after midnight.
- 43% of 'college-aged' men admitted to using coercive behaviour to have sex, including physical aggression to forced intercourse.
- Women of all age groups, racial and ethnic groups, social classes, sexual orientations, and abilities are victims of sexual assault.
- Set clear sexual limits before the date begins and communicate those limits. Be clear, honest and consistent with your verbal and nonverbal communications about sexual desires and limits.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in your surroundings, leave.
- Be assertive. You have the right to refuse unwanted advances.
- Don’t let yourself be put in vulnerable situations.
- Keep in mind that alcohol and drugs impair your judgement.
- Know which behaviours constitute sexual assault.
- Be wary of isolated spots and travel only in well-lit areas. Do not take shortcuts through vacant, wooded or dark areas. These are areas that may leave you more vulnerable.
- When leaving any college building, try to walk to your destination with someone you know and trust. If you require an escort, contact Fanshawe Foot Patrol.
- Always know who’s on the other side of the door before you open it.
- In case of car trouble, call for help on your cellular phone. If you don’t have a phone, put the hood up, lock the doors, and put a banner in the rear mirror that says, “Help. Call police.”
- If you ever need assistance, yell "FIRE" to get immediate attention, as people more readily respond to this cry for assistance than to any other.
- Plan ahead about getting home. Coordinate plans with friends and arrange transportation. Always carry enough money for cab fare.
What to do if you have been sexually assaulted
- Take whatever steps to make yourself safe.
- You can call 911 for immediate police protection and assistance. You can also call one of a number of support centres to discuss your options for reporting the assault.
- Go to your local hospital emergency room for immediate medical care to check for injury, prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, get counselling and collect evidence. Evidence collection does not require you to place a report with the police or press charges; it just preserves these options for the future.
- For the purposes of evidence collection, we suggest that you avoid showering, combing your hair or changing your clothes before going to the hospital. If you must change clothes, put the items in separate paper bags, again to be used in evidence testing. Do not use plastic bags as they may contaminate evidence.
- It is important to remember that you can still report an assault to the police without having the sexual assault evidence kit done. It is your choice.
- Decide who you want to tell. Tell someone you trust who can support and assist you. You may want to choose helping professionals such as sexual assault counsellors, crisis line workers, women support groups, health nurses, doctors, or the police.
- Reporting a crime can help you regain a sense of personal power and control. It can also help to ensure the safety of other potential victims. If you report the assault within 72 hours, in most localities the police will take your statement and you will be entitled to a forensic/evidentiary medical examination at no expense to you. To report the assault, call 911. The police can either take you to the hospital or meet you there.
- Regardless of whether or not you call the police or press charges, academic and judicial intervention may be available to you.
- Do not blame yourself. Often a survivor will blame herself by looking back to painful experiences and seeing many things they “should have” or “shouldn’t have” done. Even if you think you acted carelessly or foolishly, you did not ask to be sexually assaulted. The perpetrator’s behaviour, not your behaviour, caused the sexual assault to occur.
Centennial Women's Safety Awareness Campaign Website