Sexual abuse or assault

Understanding Rape and Sexual assault

Sexual assault is a severe, punishable act that should not be taken lightly. Maybe you hooked up with someone while you were drunk. Maybe a stranger touched you inappropriately in passing. Maybe you were pressured into having sex with your partner. What is and isn’t considered sexual assault?

In short, if you’ve experienced unwanted sexual touching, of any kind, then you’ve likely experienced sexual assault. However, there are many situations that need to be taken into account when talking about rape and sexual assault.

What the Law Says About Sexual Assault 

Unwanted touching, of any kind, is unacceptable social behaviour, but unwanted sexual touching is criminal.

If force, coercion, or incapacitation exists in a sexual act between two adults, it is considered sexual assault. Rape, in particular, is defined by federal law as: “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with anybody part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Other types of sexual assault that aren’t often talked about include female genital mutilation (removal of part or all of the female genitalia) and sexual assault between intimate partners or marital couples. Despite misconceptions, intimate partner rape (also called marital rape or spousal rape) does occur and it can be extremely detrimental to an individual’s mental health.

When Sexual Assault Occurs

The days following an assault are difficult, you will likely experience a variety of physical and emotional responses to the trauma. Everyone experiences [this] differently but it is not uncommon to feel fear, sadness, guilt, shame, anger, depression, anxiety and a loss of sense of self.

If you’ve been sexually assaulted, know it is not your fault and recovery is possible. You can learn coping mechanisms, join networks of support, and work with experienced mental health professionals.