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Forms of sexual violence

“Sexual violence” is a generic term that includes any action or attempted action of a sexual nature committed against another person without their consent and without respect for their well-being. Forms of sexual violence include sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment and sexual cyberviolence. Everyone has the right to live in a public or private space without sexual violence. Failure to respect this right infringes on human dignity and is prohibited by law in Canada.

Forms of sexual violence

Sexual assault

A sexual assault is an act of a sexual nature, with or without physical contact, committed without the consent of the person to whom it is addressed. The act can be a kiss without consent, touching without consent, penetration without consent, exhibitionism, frotteurism, voyeurism or forced viewing of pornographic material.

Sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation occurs when someone abuses another person’s sexuality without their consent or respect for their well-being. It is a form of control over another person achieved by means of physical force, blackmail or manipulation for the purpose of financial, social or personal gain.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment consists in imposing unwanted sexually suggestive words or behaviours on another person. It can occur in a physical space (bus, subway, bar, school, factory, office, etc.) or in a virtual context online (in the form of images, emails, texts or on social media).


Sexual cyberviolence

Cyberviolence designates any form of violence in the digital sphere. Whether your intimate photos are posted without your consent, or you receive unwanted messages of a sexual nature, this type of cyberviolence is a cause of indignity.

Sexual violence affects not only victims but those who are close to them, like family and friends. Anyone may be a target of sexual violence: children, the elderly, adolescents and adults, women, men and people of any gender identity. A person who commits an act of violence is often known to the victim: they might live in the neighbourhood, be a member of their family or circle of close friends, a health professional, etc.

Sexual violence is the use of physical or psychological force to dominate or harm someone. It is an act of domination with the intent of subjugating someone through their sexuality. Sexual violence can be linked to other forms of oppression, such as sexism, racism and homophobia.

Anyone who has been affected by sexual violence is entitled to help and support.