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Sexual Assault

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is the coaxing or forcing of any unwanted sexual activity by one person on another person. It can include unwanted kissing or touching, or being coaxed or forced to touch or look at someone's private parts, or forced sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal, oral).

What is consent?

Consent means agreeing to sexual activity with another person, for example kissing, touching intercourse. Even if you consent to sexual activity, you can change your mind at any time during the activity. You can consent to an activity one day, but not consent to the same activity a week later. Without consent, it is sexual assault.

A person cannot be coerced, threatened or bullied into sexual activity. If a person is drunk or stoned, that person cannot give informed consent. Without consent, it is sexual assault.

How are people affected by sexual assault?

  • Shock and numbness
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling helpless
  • Persistent fear
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Mood swings
  • Vivid dreams, nightmares, insomnia
  • Nausea, vomiting, compulsive eating
  • Feeling dirty/frequent showering or bathing
  • Efforts to deny the assault ever took place
  • Withdrawing from family, friends, activities
  • Worrying about personal safety
  • Reluctance to leave the house and/or go to places which remind the person of the sexual assault.
  • Fear of forming new relationships, or having trust issues in present relationships.
  • Disruption of everyday routine, for example high absenteeism at school, travelling different routes, going out only at certain times, needing someone to accompany you at all times.

How can you get help?

If you have just been sexually assaulted, go to the hospital for medical treatment, see your doctor or go to a walk-in clinic. You may have injuries that require treatment, or you may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. You may need to have a pregnancy test. Don't bathe or shower before seeking medical attention.

Call the police if you want to report the crime. If you don't want to contact the police, you can still get advice on what your options are, by calling the Thunder Bay Sexual Assault Centre (344-4502). You may want to speak to the police at a later time, and education about that process will be helpful.

Talk to someone you feel you can trust: parent, sibling, friend, teacher, doctor, nurse, coach, counsellor.

Copyright (c) 2004 by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario. This Fact Sheet may not be reproduced without written authorization from CMHA Ontario.