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No means no: understanding consent, sexual assault, and your rights as a victim

This blog post will highlight important information that everyone needs to know when it comes to consent to sexual activity. Sexual assault and rape is FAR too common in our society, and the BC Borstal Association feels strongly about giving those who have experienced sexual abuse the support, recognition, and advocacy they deserve.


Let us start by saying this...


- We believe you

- No, it is not your fault

- Yes, it's ok if it started out fun and then you changed your mind

- No, you did not "ask for it" by the way you were dressed or how you looked

- If you froze when it happened, this does not mean you wanted it to happen


Some common questions that you might have if you have (or think you have) been sexually assaulted:


Please note: this information was extracted from the hyperlinked PDF below, for more information and resources, please reference this document.


An Overview of Consent


Is saying “no” the only way to show that I do not consent?


No. You can show by your words OR actions that you do not consent. Actions, such as struggling and trying to leave, show that you do not consent. The police will not charge you with assault if the force you use to get out of the situation you find yourself in is self-defence. You can use the force that is necessary to protect yourself from the attacker.


What if I did not resist because I was too afraid?


Even if you did not resist because you were too afraid, the attacker cannot say that you consented. It is very common for victims of sexual assault to experience their body "freeze" to the point where they feel they cannot move or fight back. This is an involuntary trauma response that you did not have control over.


What if I agree to the sexual activity at first, and then I change my mind?


Once you show that you no longer agree to sexual activity, there is no longer consent. Your consent must be on-going. In other words, you can take back your consent. Also, very important: consenting to one kind of sexual activity does not mean you consent to any other sexual activity. You can say NO to anything at any time.


Can a person say that I consented if I was drunk?


No. If you are drinking or high on drugs and unable to make a decision, the law does not consider that you consented. You must be conscious to give consent.


What if the person thought that I consented?


If the person honestly and reasonably believed he or she had your consent to sexual activity, it may be a defence. That being said, a person cannot use this defence if: he or she carelessly or on purpose ignored that you were not consenting; he or she was drunk or high at the time; or you were drunk or high at the time.


Can my partner force me into sexual activity without my consent?


No. The police can charge anyone who forces sexual activity on you with sexual assault. It does not matter if the person is your spouse, your common law partner or your date.



An overview of what sexual assault is


Sexual Assault is the intentional use of force against somebody without his or her consent. Trying to use force or threatening to use force may also be assault. Touching, slapping, punching, kicking or pushing are examples of assault. Sexual assault is any kind of assault that is of a sexual nature. Whether it's grabbing someone’s breast, or having sexual intercourse without a person’s consent, these are examples of sexual assault.


Are there different kinds of sexual assault offences?


Yes. Sexual offences apply to different types of sexual contact, not just rape.


Sexual assault is forced sexual activity where the person does not physically hurt you. The law recognizes a range of offences and punishments.


Sexual assault with a weapon or threats to a third party is forced sexual activity where the person uses a weapon, or threatens you with a weapon, or threatens to hurt another person. Sexual assault causing bodily harm is forced sexual activity where the person physically injures you. “Bodily harm” means any injury that affects your health and comfort and is more than temporary or minor in nature.


Aggravated sexual assault is forced sexual activity where the person seriously injures you. An injury is serious when the person wounds, disfigures or endangers your life.


Invitation to sexual touching is inviting a child under the age of 16 to touch directly or indirectly, the body of any other person.


Sexual interference is touching a child under the age of 16, whether directly or indirectly, for a sexual purpose.


Providing sexually explicit material to a child is “grooming” a child using pornography in order to commit a sexual offence.


Luring a child is communicating with a young person using a computer in order to arrange or conduct certain sexual offences. Depending on the offence, the age of consent ranges from 16 to 18 years.


Voyeurism is the secret observation by any means or recording of any person for a sexual purpose, in circumstances where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.


Sexual Exploitation: The law considers it to be sexual exploitation for anyone in a position of trust or authority over a young person, to engage in sexual activity with them. This includes a person on whom the young person is dependent. A young person is a person 16 years of age or more, but under 18 years.


Publication of Intimate Images without Consent: It is an offence for someone to knowingly post, distribute, sell or make available an intimate image, film, or recording of another person without that person’s consent. An intimate image is a picture or video of a person who is nude, partially nude, or engaged in sexual activity. The photos can be of a child or an adult. Even if the individual consented to the pictures or videos being taken, it is an offence to distribute them if the individual had a reasonable expectation of privacy at the time they were taken.


For more information on reporting and pressing charges against your assaulter, please review this document:

No_Means_No Consent explained in legal t
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At the BC Borstal Association, we have counsellors who offer counselling for sexual assault victims. If you are struggling and need emotional support, please contact us at: support@bcborstal.ca. We are also approved counsellors through the Crime Victim Assistance Program (CVAP). If you report your assault to the police in BC and receive a claim number, you could be eligible for counselling funded by CVAP.


Learn more here

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