Sexual violence

  • Describes any violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality. 
  • Includes sexual abuse and sexual assault.
  • Anyone, regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation can experience sexual violence. 
  • Sexual violence can profoundly impact physical and mental wellbeing of individuals and communities.

This violence takes different forms including sexual abuse and sexual assault.  Acts of sexual violence include: unwanted sexual comments or advances; coercion of another person’s sexuality by physical or psychological intimidation; and/or the denial of another person’s sexual decision-making rights.  Anyone, regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation can experience sexual violence.  Sexual violence can profoundly impact physical and mental wellbeing of individuals and communities.

Sexual assault

  • Is a form of sexual violence.
  • Is any type of unwanted sexual act, from unwanted touching to penetration without consent.
  • Includes the threat of sexual touching without consent.
  • Is a crime.

Sexual assault is a form of sexual violence and is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Sexual assault is any type of unwanted sexual act done by one person to another that violates the sexual integrity of that person and involves a range of behaviours from any unwanted touching to penetration. Sexual assault is characterized by a broad range of behaviours that involve the use of force, threats, or control towards a person, which makes that person feel uncomfortable, distressed, frightened, threatened, or that is carried out in circumstances in which the person has not freely agreed, consented to, or is incapable of consenting to.


  • Is required every time.
  • Means an understandable exchange of affirmative words.
  • Is voluntary and explicit agreement to engage in the sexual activity in question.

The voluntary and explicit agreement to engage in the sexual activity in question.  It is the act of willingly agreeing to engage in specific sexual behaviour, and requires that a person is able to freely choose between two options: yes and no.  This means that there must be an understandable exchange of affirmative words, which indicates a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. 

Sexual harassment

Is prohibited by the code and may be based on gender (including transgender and non-binary persons) or may involve the use of overt sexual language or sexual innuendo which makes an individual feel uncomfortable. Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Any deliberate and unsolicited sexual comment, suggestion or physical contact that creates an uncomfortable learning/working environment for the recipient and is made by a person who knows or ought reasonably to know that such action is unwelcome;
  • A sexual advance or solicitation made by a person where the person making the advance or solicitation knows or ought reasonably to know that it is unwelcome;
  • A reprisal or threat of reprisal for the rejection of a sexual solicitation or advance where the reprisal is made or threatened by a person in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the person;
  • Unwelcome remarks, jokes, sexual innuendoes or taunting about a person's body, attire, sex, personal or social life;
  • Practical jokes of a sexual nature which cause awkwardness or embarrassment;
  • Displaying and/or distributing pornographic pictures or other offensive material of a sexual nature, either through printed copy or personal computer;
  • Leering (suggestive staring) or other gestures;
  • Unnecessary physical contact such as touching, patting or pinching;
  • Expressions of gender bias which may include remarks that are discriminatory, degrading or derogatory and create a poisoned work environment;
  • Requests for sexual favours; and/or
  • Sexual assault.

Acquaintance sexual assault

Sexual contact that is forced, manipulated, or coerced by a partner, friend or acquaintance.


In the context of sexual violence, coercion is unreasonable and persistent pressure for sexual activity. Coercion is the use of emotional manipulation, blackmail, threats to family or friends, or the promise of rewards or special treatment, to persuade someone to do something they do not wish to do, such as being sexual or performing particular sexual acts.

Drug-facilitated sexual assault

The use of alcohol and/or drugs (prescription or non-prescription) by a perpetrator to control, overpower or subdue a person for purposes of sexual assault.


This policy refers to the offence of sexual assault to align with the current offence contained in the Criminal Code.  The word “rape” is no longer used in criminal statutes in Canada.  The term was replaced many years ago to acknowledge that sexual violence is not about sex but is about acts of psychological and physical violence.  The term “sexual assault” provides a much broader definition and criminalizes unwanted behaviour such as touching and kissing as well as unwanted oral sex and vaginal and anal intercourse.  Although the term no longer has a legal meaning in Canada, the term rape is still commonly used.


A form of criminal harassment prohibited by the Criminal Code of Canada.  It involves behaviours that occur on more than one occasion and which collectively instill fear or threaten the target’s safety or mental health.  Stalking can also include threats of harm to the target’s friends and/or family.  These behaviours include, but are not limited to non-consensual communications (face-to-face, phone, email, social media); threatening or obscene gestures; surveillance; sending unsolicited gifts; cyber-stalking; and uttering threats.


Some who have experienced sexual violence may choose to identify as a survivor. Individuals might be more familiar with the term “victim.” At Humber/UGH, we use the term “survivor” throughout the Sexual Assault and Sexual Violence Policy where relevant because some who have experienced sexual assault believe they have overcome the violent experience and do not wish to identify with the victimization. It is the prerogative of the person who has experienced these circumstances to determine how they wish to identify.

Age of consent for sexual activity

The age at which a person can legally consent to sexual activity. In Canada, children under 12 can never legally consent to sexual acts. Sixteen is the legal age of consent for sexual acts.  There are variations on the age of consent for adolescents who are close in age between the ages of 12 and 16. Twelve and 13 year-olds can consent to have sex with other youth who are less than 2 years older than themselves. Youth who are 14 and 15 years old may consent to sexual involvement that is mutual with a person who is less than 5 years older. Youths 16 and 17 years old may legally consent to sexual acts with someone who is not in a position of trust or authority. to sexual acts with someone who is not in a position of trust or authority.