1. What is Sexual Violence?
  2. The Effects of Sexual Violence
  3. Why it happens?
  4. What is Child Sexual Abuse?
  5. Warning signs of child sexual abuse
  6. What is Date Rape?
  7. Warning signs of dating violence
  8. Sexual Violence and the Criminal Justice System

1. What is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence is a general term that includes many acts such as sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape, femicide (murder of women), as well as many other practices such as female genital mutilation, sexual exploitation and sexual slavery/prostitution.

Sexual Violence can include:

  • Forced oral, vaginal, and anal penetration
  • Forced touching, kissing, fondling
  • Forced participation in sexual acts
  • Forced sexual acts involving weapons or objects
  • Forced exposure to sexual conduct
  • Coerced sexual behaviour
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Manipulative sexuality
  • Forced exposure to sexual information
  • Discrimination based on gender
  • Sexual intimidation, threats and fear”

Sexual violence also includes attitudes and behaviours that are generated, condoned and justified through sexism and misogyny. Misogyny is a term that refers to the hatred of women.

1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted during her lifetime. Of these assaults, half will be against women under the age of 16.
(Ontario Women’s Directorate)

Sexual assault is any unwanted act of a sexual nature that is imposed on another person. This can mean anything from unwanted touching of a sexual nature to rape. Sexual harassment can include behaviors such as comments about a person’s body, sexist or sexually explicit jokes, cartoons or posters, or telling homophobic jokes. Individuals sometimes argue that their behavior was not intended to offend or hurt. However, lack of intent is not a defense against sexual violence. The important issue is how the behavior affects the recipient.

Sexual violence is perpetrated everywhere against anyone – in homes, in communities, at workplaces, on the streets and within societal institutions – schools, prisons, churches, health facilities, social organizations and government systems, throughout the world. Sexual violence does not discriminate.

2. The Effects of Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is a traumatic violation of the body, mind and spirit. Each person reacts in a unique way to sexual violence. There is no right or wrong way to cope or feel after experiencing sexual violence.

Some of the common effects women experience include:


  • Sleeping and eating difficulties
  • Injuries sustained during the assault
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Pregnancy
  • Permanent disability
  • Body flashbacks


  • Anxieties, depression, shame, anger/rage, fear
  • Low self-esteem, shock, disbelief
  • Feeling unclean or dirty
  • Restlessness, guilt, embarrassment
  • Confusion, unable to focus, feeling withdrawn
  • Feeling disconnected from self and others
  • Feeling powerless and helpless
  • Flashbacks of the violence
  • Feeling frozen or numb
  • Feelings of loss
  • Erratic mood swings
  • Hyper-alertness

Sexual violence diminishes a woman’s feeling of trust. A woman’s feeling of security and safety is fragmented after a sexual assault.

3. Why It Happens

Sexual violence is a crime, it is a form of power and control and it is an act of violence. It is a human rights violation.

Sexual violence is a result of a patriarchal society that promotes societal inequalities, including gender inequality between men and women. It is this inequality that leads to the abuse and oppression of women and children. Sexual violence is not about sex, it is about power and control.

4. What is Child Sexual Abuse?

Child sexual abuse, including incest, is defined as the sexual exploitation of a child by an adult.

It can include:

  • being touched, fondled, looked at, spoken to, hugged and/or or kissed in a sexual way;
  • oral and/or anal sex;
  • rape and/or digital penetration;
  • exposure to pornographic materials (including forced participation);
  • forced to watch adults engage in sexual behaviours; and
  • being forced to touch adults or yourself in a sexual way

It is estimated that one in every three girls and one in every seven boys are sexually abused before the age of eighteen
(Bagley Report, 1984)

It is generally accepted that about 80% of offenders are known to the child;
in less than 20% of the cases they are strangers. Over 95% of offenders are male
You cannot tell a child abuser just by looking at them. They appear to be very “normal” people. They can be a father, stepfather, grandfather, brother, uncle, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin, foster family, teacher, religious leader, camp counselor, scout leader, team coach, doctor, therapist, neighbour, friend of the family, other kids, strangers, school guidance counselors, police officers, etc.

Children rarely lie about sexual abuse;
they simply do not have that kind of knowledge.
(Committee Against Rape and Sexual Assault, CARSA)

5. Warning signs of child sexual abuse

Sexually abused children may exhibit many different behaviours. Some behaviours include:

  • withdrawal
  • crying
  • complaining of physical illnesses
  • engage in destructive behaviours
  • act out in sexually inappropriate ways
  • have problems sleeping
  • wet the bed
  • may run away
  • engage in self abuse
  • may have problems concentrating

6. What is Date Rape?

57% of rapes happen while on dates and 60% of sexual assaults occur in private homes (Ontario Women’s Directorate)
Date rape is a term used to describe someone being forced, through coercion, pressure, intimidation or physical violence, by someone known to them to go further then they want to go.

The majority of date and acquaintance rape victims are young women aged 16-24
(Ontario Women’s Directorate)
Date rape has the lowest reporting rate of all forms of sexual assault. It is estimated that only 1% of all date rapes are reported to the police
(Ontario Women’s Directorate)

7. Warning signs of dating violence

Warning signs of date violence include:

Dating someone who:

  • Is jealous and possessive, won’t let you see your friends, checks up on you or won’t accept breaking up
  • Seems excessively interested in your whereabouts, asks you to call them frequently on your cell throughout the day, calls you frequently to see what you’re doing, who you’ve been talking to
  • Tries to control you by giving orders, making all the decisions, and disregarding your opinion
  • Threatens you and leads you to worry about how he/she will react to things that you might do or say
  • Is violent, has a bad temper, or brags about bullying or harming others
  • Attempts to make you feel guilty by saying stuff like “If you really love me you would …?”
  • Gets too serious about the relationship too quickly
  • Blames you when he/she mistreats you
  • Believes that men should be in control and women should be submissive? (or vice versa)
  • You only feel safe with them when there are other people around. You get treated differently depending on who is around

8. Sexual Violence and the Criminal Justice System

See the Legal Options section of the ONTARIO WOMEN’S JUSTICE NETWORK website.

Check out www.courtprep.ca for youths preparing for court.