Sexual violence is any form of unwanted touching, contact, or harassment.

Sexual violence includes forced kissing, touching, groping, and sex, as well as verbal harassment such as catcalls or jokes. Learn more about what sexual violence is and how to find support.

You may have noticed that the conversation about consent and respectful sexual behaviours has become more common recently.

Our work within sexual health has led to many conversations about consent and sexual violence. At the Centre For Sexuality, when we talk about sexual violence, we discuss the law and the ethical and emotional impacts of these types of actions. If you have questions about what counts as sexual violence or about what to do if you or someone you know has experienced it, you’ve come to the right page.

Sexual violence is when one person tries to force, trick, manipulate or coerce another person into doing something sexual they don’t want to. Sexual violence uses power over the other person to get them to do something sexual. Power over could look like: using a position of power (like a job), age, money, alcohol or drugs, lying or hiding information, the non-consensual removal of a condom during sex, and even guilt trips or ultimatums to get the other person to do something sexual. If a person has to be convinced – it’s not consensual.

People may use different language to describe their experiences of sexual violence, including sexual assault, sexual abuse, or rape. In Canada, our legal system uses the term sexual assault to describe these types of unwanted experiences. Only you can decide if what happened felt like sexual violence. No one else can tell you what “counts” or caused you harm.

Sexual violence can happen to anyone. It happens to men. It happens to women. It happens to people of all genders.

If you have experienced sexual violence, there is help.

If someone you know shares that they’ve experienced sexual violence, here’s how you might help.