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Consent and sexual assault

⚠️ Consent is a must!

Giving consent means agreeing to take part in a sexual activity. It’s simple: if you haven’t clearly agreed with words 🗣, actions, or both, there’s no consent. Each partner MUST obtain the other one’s consent 🙅‍♀️🙅‍♂️.

And every new sexual behaviour has to be consented to: kissing the person or letting him/her touch you isn’t a free pass for other kinds of intimate or sexual contact.

You can agree, refuse, or change your mind at any time. You can withdraw your consent at any time in the sexual relationship. You have the right to change your mind, stop in the middle, say no. A “yes” at the start might turn into a “no” later on. And consent applies in all situations: in a couple, in a hook-up, etc.

How does it work in reality?

Frequently asked questions

I didn’t want to, but I didn’t say “no.” Was that assault?

Yes! Not saying “no” clearly doesn’t mean you agree! If you’ve experienced something you didn’t like, don’t keep it to yourself. Talk about it to a counsellor or someone else you trust. Sometimes you might also decide to set the record straight: maybe the other person really didn’t understand. Maybe he/she didn’t know that you weren’t comfortable. You might feel better if you tell him/her how you felt. At the same time, you’re telling the other person what you went through and you’re helping him/her understand so it doesn’t happen again.

Is it possible to consent after taking alcohol or drugs?

Consent isn’t valid if you’ve been drinking or drugging. However, you might feel like you can consent, because the effects of alcohol and drugs affect our thought processes and our judgment. Alcohol (or drugs) and sex don’t go well together. When we’ve been drinking or taking drugs, it’s harder to remember values and limits… and it’s even harder to explain them and make other people respect them. Ideally, it’s best to avoid having sex with someone who’s been drinking or drugging. If one of the people involved realizes he/she has done things he/she didn’t want to do, he/she can press charges. As well, it’s much better to share the moment with someone who’ll remember it… and to remember it yourself!

How can I help a friend who’s been sexually assaulted?

The most important thing is to listen to what he/she has to say, without judging. You might remind your friend that it’s not his/her fault, congratulate him/her for talking about it, and encourage him/her to continue doing so. In addition, you might ask how you can help your friend and what he/she wants to do, and accompany him/her in his/her actions. Don’t forget to respect your own limits and call on a counsellor or Tel-jeunes if you think that’s the best thing to do. Finally, if your friend is less than 18 years old, you’re legally obligated to report the case to Youth Protection Services (the Directeur de la protection de la jeunesse, DPJ).

What’s the difference between harassment and assault?

Sexual harassment refers to repeated, unwanted words or actions of a sexual nature that hurt your dignity or integrity. Sexual harassment may make you feel uncomfortable or scared or impact your well-being: unwanted sexual suggestions, inappropriate comments about your body or your sexual identity, overly intimate questions, etc. Sexual assault is an action of a sexual nature, with or without physical contact, done without the other person’s consent. It’s an act intended to force the other person to accept the attacker’s sexual desires by means of an abuse of power, the use of force or constraint, or threats.

There’s a difference between sexual harassment and assault, but both can be very harmful. If it happens to you, get help quickly.

What is the legal age to engage in sexual activity?

Legal age

In Canada, the legal age to consent to sexual activity is 16 years, but there are exceptions for teenagers who have voluntary sexual relations with each other.

At age 12 or 13

If the younger partner is 12 or 13, there can’t be more than 2 years’ difference between the partners’ ages. So it would be illegal for a 15-year-old to have sex with a 12-year-old.

At age 14 or 15

If the younger partner is 14 or 15, the maximum age difference between partners is 5 years. In addition, the older partner can’t be in a position of authority, trust, or exploitation toward the younger one, and the younger partner can’t be in a position of dependence on the older one.

Legal proceedings

In order for legal proceedings to occur, a complaint must be filed. Often, it’s the parents of one of the young people who will take such a step because they think the relationship is inappropriate.


Any more questions about consent?

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