Definitions of Sexual Violence

Sexual Assault

Any form of sexual contact without voluntary consent (Adapted from the Criminal Code of Canada, Sec.270).
  • Kissing, fondling, sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, and oral sex are all examplesof sexual assault if they are done without voluntary consent.
  • Consent obtained through pressure, coercion, force, or threats of force is not voluntary consent.


Under the Criminal Code of Canada, "Consent is defined as a voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question."(Section 273.1) The criminal code further outlines the following five specific situations in which consent is not given.

Consent is not given if:

• It is given by someone else
• The person is incapable of consenting (i.e. unconscious, drunk, stoned, or sleeping)
• It is an abuse of power, trust, or authority
• The person does not say yes, says no, or through words or behavior implies no
• The person changes her/his mind

Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is the improper exposure of a child to sexual contact, activity, or behavior. Child sexual abuse can include exhibitionism, exposure to pornography, exual touching, and/or penetration.

The age of consent to engage in sexual activity in Canada is 14. According to the Criminal Code of Canada, a person under the age of 12 cannot consent to any kind of sexual activity.


Using pressure, threats and/or intimidation to force another to engage in sexual activity. Some examples of coercion are:
  • Constantly putting pressure on someone (pleading, repeatedly asking)
  • Making someone feel guilty ("If you love me, you'll..", turning away, acting hurt)
  • Threatening to withhold or do something ("I'll break up with you...", "I'll tell everyone you...")
  • Making false promises ("If you do this, I promise I won't ask for anything else", "I promise I'll do...")
  • Implied threat (blocking the path to the door, physical size, previous threats)

Coercion is a common tool used by perpetrators especially in acquaintance sexual assault and child sexual abuse.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is often confused with sexual assault. Sexual harassment is any unwanted comment, gesture or action of a sexual nature (Adapted from the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission). (eg. A teaching assistant [TA] constantly pressuring a student to date him/her.)

Sexual harassment includes unwanted attention, demands, or a pattern of jokes or insults that affect your job, work, school environment or your chances to obtain a service.

Sexual harassment falls under Human Rights Law, a civil legislation, not the Criminal Code of Canada. Sexual harassment complaints may be reported to the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission.


Stalking can be broadly defined as willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following and/or harassing another person. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, stalking is referred to as Criminal Harassment (Section 264, subsection1).

Stalking consists of:
  • repeatedly following the victim or someone known to the victim;
  • repeatedly communicating, either directly or indirectly, with the victim or anyone known to them;
  • watching the victim's house, or place where the victim, or anyone known to the victim, lives, works, or happens to be; or
  • engaging in threatening conduct directed at the victim or any member of their family.


Voyeurism is defined by the Criminal Code of Canada (section 162, subsection 1) as an offense by an individual who, surreptitiously, observes – including by mechanical or electronic means – or makes a visual recording of a person who is in circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Child Pornography

Child pornography is defined by the Criminal Code of Canada (section 163.1 (1) ) as a photographic film, video or other visual representation, whether or not it was made by electronic or mechanical means that shows a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of 18 years and is engaged in or depicted as engages in explicit sexual activity or for a sexual purpose.

(Adapted from University of Alberta Sexual Assault Centre)