Definitions

Sexual violence
An act committed against someone's sexual integrity without that person’s freely given consent. It can be physical and/or non-contact, affects all ages and genders, and the person committing the act may be known or a stranger. It is against the law – both civil and criminal – and includes but is not limited to:
  • sexual assault
  • sexual harassment
  • sexual exploitation
Sexual assault
Any unwanted act of a sexual nature that is imposed on another person without their consent. It can include forced or unwanted:
  • kissing
  • touching
  • vaginal penetration
  • anal penetration
  • oral sex
Sexual harassment
  • involves any unwanted sexual behaviour that affects or prevents a person from getting or keeping a job, promotion or living accommodations
  • is a form of discrimination based on the grounds of gender, including transgender, which is prohibited under the Alberta Human Rights Act

It includes unwanted or uninvited:

  • sexual remarks
  • gestures
  • sounds like leering or whistling
  • actions that make a person feel unsafe, degraded or uncomfortable, even if the harasser claims to have been only joking
Sexual exploitation
It happens when a person in a position of trust or authority uses that power to start or attempt sexual activity with another person. It can be direct or indirect and may include:
  • touching
  • violence
  • coercion
  • use of threats

Who is affected

According to the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services and Statistics Canada:

  • 87% of survivors are women, although sexual violence can impact all genders.
  • 94% of sexual violence offenders are men.
  • 95% of survivors do not report assaults to police, making sexual violence the most under‑reported crime in Canada.
  • An estimated 1.8 million Albertans have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. That is 45% of Alberta’s population – almost one in every 2 people.
  • Women in Alberta are more likely than men to report experiencing unwanted sexual behaviour online, including online harassment.
  • Women are more likely (29%) to report experiencing unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace than men (19%).
  • In 2018, there were 12,202 senior victims of police-reported violence in Canada; of these, 511 were sexual assault. The rate of sexual assault was higher for senior women (15 victims per 100,000 population) than senior men (1 victim per 100,000 population).

According to Statistics Canada, some groups are more likely to experience sexual violence:

  • LGBTQ2S+
    • In 2014, Canadians who identified as homosexual or bisexual had a rate of sexual assault 6 times higher than those who identified as heterosexual.
  • Indigenous women and girls
    • Indigenous women and girls in Canada are 3 times more likely to be victims of violence than non-Indigenous women. In 2014, the rate of self-reported sexual assault among Indigenous people was approximately 3 times higher than among non-Indigenous people (58 versus 20 per 1,000 population).
  • children and adolescents
    • In 2016, the rates of police-reported sexual assault were highest among youth aged 16 to 17, while sexual violations against children were highest among those aged 12 to 15 in Alberta.
  • people with disabilities
    • In 2014, the rate of sexual assault among people with a disability was approximately 2 times higher than those with no disability in Canada (37 versus 16 per 1,000 population).

Myths about sexual assault

Myth Fact
Sexual assault is most often committed by strangers. Of sexual assaults where a charge was laid by police, the majority (87%) of victims knew their assailant, most commonly as a casual acquaintance, a family member or an intimate partner.
Sexual assault is most likely to happen outside in dark, dangerous places. The majority of sexual assaults occur in private spaces like a residence or private home.
If a survivor does not report to the police, it was not sexual assault. Just because a survivor does not report the assault does not mean it did not happen. In 2014, 95% of survivors did not report their assaults to the police, making sexual violence the most under‑reported crime in Canada.
It is not a big deal to have sex with someone while the person is drunk, under the influence of drugs or passed out. If someone is unconscious or incapable of consenting due to the use of alcohol or drugs, they cannot legally give consent. Without consent, it is sexual assault.
Spouses cannot sexually assault their partner. Sexual assault can occur in a married or other intimate partner relationship.
If a survivor did not scream or fight back, it probably was not sexual assault. There are different responses to fear. When a person is sexually assaulted, they may become paralyzed with fear and be unable to fight back. They may be fearful that if they struggle, the perpetrator will become more violent. If the survivor is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the survivor may be incapacitated or unable to resist.
If a survivor does not have obvious physical injuries, like cuts or bruises, it probably was not sexual assault. Lack of physical injury does not mean that a survivor was not sexually assaulted. An offender may use threats, weapons, or other coercive actions that do not leave physical marks. The survivor may have been unconscious or been otherwise incapacitated.
Survivors lie and make up stories about being sexually assaulted. The number of false reports for sexual assault is very low, consistent with the number of false reports for other crimes in Canada.

Additional resources

Fact sheets

Ending Sexual Violence in Alberta

Respect Sexual Consent (PDF, 258 KB)

Sexual Harassment in Sport and Recreation

Statistics

The statistics mentioned on this page are from these sources:

Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services

Statistics Canada