What is Sexual Assault?

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Sexual assault includes unwanted vaginal, anal or oral penetration, groping/touching your body and forced kissing. There are a lot of other names used to describe sexual assault including: date or acquaintance rape, marital rape, incest and gang rape. Sexual harassment often includes some form of sexual assault. The vast majority of attacks are done by heterosexual men on women. No matter what it is called, sexual assault is an abuse of power in which men force women into violent situations against our will. It is an attempt to control women and to deny our right to control our own bodies.

Many women experience sexual assault during our lives. One woman in four will be raped sometime in her life. The attack will most often be by someone she knows (Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres). One in eight girls is sexually assaulted before the age of 18, most often by a male family member (Vancouver United Way).

If you are considering using the police, you can get support and further information by calling an independent feminist rape crisis centre. If you decide not to use the police that's okay too, the majority of women who have suffered a sexual assault choose not to use the police. We will respect your decisions and maintain your confidentiality.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault Law

from the Criminal Code
October 2000

271. (1) Every one who commits a sexual assault is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months.
(2) [Repealed, R.S., 1985, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 10]
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 271; R.S., 1985, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 10; 1994, c. 44, s. 19.

Sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm

272. (1) Every person commits an offence who, in committing a sexual assault,
(a) carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation of a weapon;
(b) threatens to cause bodily harm to a person other than the complainant;
(c) causes bodily harm to the complainant; or
(d) is a party to the offence with any other person.

Punishment

(2) Every person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and
(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 272; 1995, c. 39, s. 145.

Aggravated sexual assault

273. (1) Every one commits an aggravated sexual assault who, in committing a sexual assault, wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.

Aggravated sexual assault

(2) Every person who commits an aggravated sexual assault is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and
(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for life.