The difference between the terms "rape" and "sexual assault" is not always clear. Rape is a form of sexual assault and contrary to popular belief, it does not only happen with strangers in dark alleys or underground parking lots. More often than not, it is people in the victim's entourage who commit this criminal act. Girls and women are most often affected, but anyone, regardless of age, sex or gender, could be a victim of rape.
What is rape?
Rape is a crime of sexual assault that has been inflicted on a person without their consent. Rape occurs when there is penetration of any part of the body or object by force, surprise, threat or violence. For example, forced fellatio or finger penetration without consent is considered rape. Rape is a crime punishable by law.
Rape is not the only form of sexual assault. Non-consensual sexual touching or touching of a person under the legal age of consent is considered assault. This means that kissing, fondling, or touching one’s buttocks are examples of sexual touching, when committed with coercion or surprise.
In Canada, the legal age of consent for sexual activity is 16. But when young people are freely and voluntarily engaging in sexual activity with each other, there is an exception. When the younger partner is 14 or 15 years old, the age difference is up to 5 years. When the younger partner is 12 or 13 years old, the age difference is 2 years maximum. In addition, the younger person must not be in a situation of dependence or submission towards the older person and there must not be a power imbalance.
There are other sexual offenses that are not acceptable behavior:
- Voyeurism (watching someone without their knowledge)
- Exhibitionism (showing one's genitals)
- Sharing intimate images (photos, videos, etc.) without consent
- Sending sexual messages (sexting, etc.)
The person committing the assault is the only one responsible for the rape and not the victim
It is never the fault of the victim. It is always the full responsibility of the person who commits the assault. The victim of a rape did not "seek" to be assaulted because of the way they were dressed, their attitude, the place they were at, the time of day, etc.
Penetration without consent is still rape, even if the people have kissed or engaged in sexual activity before. This is why the principle of consent is so important. It is everyone's responsibility to make sure that the other person agrees at all times.
Mutual consent occurs when all parties clearly agree. This means that if a person remains silent or does nothing, they are not giving consent. A person who is unable to speak or make decisions due to alcohol or drug consumption also cannot consent. It is also possible to agree and then change your mind. In this case, the consent is no longer valid.
Communicating and sharing your desires with your partner is an enjoyable and intimate experience. Making sure you have your partner's free and enthusiastic consent is the best way to share a moment that is fun for everyone.
What are the consequences of rape on young victims?
Rape is an assault with serious traumatic consequences for young victims. It can be the source of many disorders:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: nightmares, uncontrollable memories, reliving the traumatic event, persistent fear, high anxiety;
- Loss of sense of confidence and security;
- Loss of self-esteem;
- Sense of guilt, shame;
- Mood swings;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Difficulty eating;
- Suicidal thoughts.
A person who has been a victim of rape may also have lifelong difficulties in maintaining healthy romantic relationships and experiencing sexual pleasure.
If you have been a victim of rape or other sexual assault, remember that it is not your fault. No words or actions you may have taken can justify being assaulted. There are many ways to get help. There are free online services to help victims of sexual assault. It is also a good idea to talk to someone you trust, whether it is a family member or a friend, teacher, etc.
Contacting the police is your choice. If you are comfortable doing so, it is good to know that in the case of a complaint, it is often recommended to start with a medical examination. Not washing or changing clothes before the examination helps to prove the presence of physical evidence. This can be helpful in the event of a lawsuit by the person who assaulted you. And by going to the hospital for the examination, the medical staff can also treat any injuries and test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
And just because the incident happened some time ago or is not recent does not mean that it cannot be reported to the authorities. If you want to know more about the legal process, you can call the police anonymously or ask someone to do it for you.
As a parent, you can protect your children from sexual abuse by talking about it at home so that it doesn't become a taboo. The right to refuse certain gestures, even a kiss or a touch, can be discussed as early as childhood. And it is a subject that can be brought up again at each stage of the child's development with age-appropriate vocabulary. It is also important to explain to young people what consent is and why it is essential.
LOVE supports youth to thrive through programs and healthy relationships that build emotional intelligence and help overcome the challenges they face. Our participants emerge from LOVE’s programs with greater resilience, heightened skills, and the confidence to be inspirational leaders.