Policy Details

4000-3-9 Sexual Assault & Sexual Violence Policy & Protocol

Responsible Executive Senior Vice-President, Academic & Student Success
Director, Institutional Intelligence & Registrar
Issue Date December 8, 2016
Supersedes Date October 24, 2019
Last Review May 18, 2023
Last Revision May 18, 2023

Upon request, the college will provide a copy of this policy in an alternate format.

All members of the Lambton College community have a right to work and study in an environment that is free from any form of sexual violence.  Lambton College will not ignore, condone or tolerate sexual violence in any form. This policy and response protocol reflect the determination of the College to ensure that those individuals who have been affected by sexual violence are believed, supported and appropriately accommodated, while, ensuring a procedural fair process for investigation, adjudication and sanctioning that respects and protects the rights of individuals, holding accountable those who have committed an act of sexual violence.

Policy Applicability

This policy applies to all members of the College community including employees, board members, students, contractors, suppliers of services, individuals who are directly connected to any College initiatives, volunteers, and visitors.


  1. Sexual violence is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Lambton College is committed to confronting and preventing sexual violence and creating a safe space for anyone in our college community who has been affected by sexual violence. The College is committed to providing a safe and positive space where members of the college community feel able to work, learn and express themselves in an environment free from sexual violence.
  2. All reported incidents of sexual violence will be investigated to the best of the administration’s ability and in a manner that ensures due process. One purpose of this policy is to make individuals feel comfortable about making a report in good faith about sexual violence that they have experienced or witnessed.
  3. It is recognized that sexual violence can occur between individuals regardless of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or relationship status as articulated in the Ontario Human Rights Code. It is also recognized that individuals who have experienced sexual violence may experience emotional, academic or other difficulties.
  4. The College is committed to:
    1. assisting those who have been affected by sexual violence by providing choices, with detailed information and support, such as provision of and/or referral to counselling and medical care, information about legal options, and appropriate academic and other accommodation;
    2. ensuring that those who disclose that they have experienced sexual violence are believed, and that their right to dignity and respect is protected throughout the process of disclosure, investigation and institutional response;
    3. eliminating harmful attitudes and behaviours that reinforce that the person who experienced sexual violence is to blame for what happened; this includes protecting the complainant from irrelevant questions such as those relating to past sexual history or sexual expression;
    4. treating with compassion individuals who disclose sexual violence, recognizing that they are the final decision-makers about their own best interests;
    5. ensuring that on-campus (internal) investigation procedures are available for cases of sexual violence, even when the individual chooses not to make a report to the police;
    6. engaging in appropriate procedures for investigation and adjudication of a complaint that are in accordance with College policies, standards and applicable collective agreements, and ensure fairness and due process;
    7. ensuring coordination and communication among the various departments who are most likely to be involved in the response to sexual violence on campus;
    8. engaging in public education and prevention activities;
    9. providing information to the college community about our sexual violence policy and protocol;
    10. providing appropriate education and training to the college community about responding to the disclosure of sexual violence;
    11. contributing to the creation of a campus atmosphere in which sexual violence is not tolerated;
    12. monitoring and updating our policy and protocol to ensure that they remain effective and in line with other existing policies and best practices.

Reporting and Responding to Sexual Violence

  1. Members of the college community should immediately report sexual violence incidents they witness or have knowledge of, or where they have reason to believe that sexual violence has occurred or may occur. Members who have experienced sexual violence are encouraged to come forward to report as soon as they are able to do so.
  2. Persons in a position of authority, including persons directing the activities of others, shall take immediate action to respond to or to prevent sexual violence.
  3. Where the College becomes aware of an incident of sexual violence by a member of the college community or against a member of the college community, that occurs on or off College property, and that poses a risk to the safety of members of the college community, the College shall take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the college community.

Complaint Process and Investigations

  1. A complaint of any kind of sexual violence can be filed under this Policy by any member of the college community and any other individual to whom this policy applies.
  2. Procedural Fairness: Except as otherwise stated in this Protocol, the College provides those whose rights, privileges, or interests may be affected by a decision with notice of the decision to be made, disclosure of facts relevant to the decision and an opportunity to be heard. The College may decide how it meets these obligations in different circumstances and will do so with a view of providing a fair process, making a sound decision, and preserving the dignity of survivors. The College has the right to withhold disclosure early on in its process to obtain a person's independent recollection of events.
  3. Support and Representation: Complainants and respondents may attend meetings with a single (non-participating) support person. The College considers requests to attend meetings with additional support persons and with legal or other representation on a case-by-case basis, with a view to promoting a fair and expeditious process. The College may still question and expect direct answers from an individual who is represented.
  4. If an individual(s) files a complaint or report on sexual violence and in the process of supplying information reveals a breach of College policy (e.g. Student Discipline policy), no action will be taken by the College respecting those breaches. For example, the inappropriate use of alcohol or drugs, or having unauthorized guests within a residence room. Additionally, reporting an incident of sexual violence will not impact the Study Permit status for an international student.
  5. Notwithstanding, the College reserves the right, in exceptional circumstances, such as  especially egregious breaches of policy (e.g. physical violence) or breaches that have caused the College to initiate policy-breach actions prior to the receipt of the complaint or report, to address the reported breaches of policy.
  6. The College reserves the right in all cases and notwithstanding the immediately following statement, on the basis of information and comment provided to it, to undertake and institute interim measures to ensure the safety of the College community or any members of it, or to meet the demonstrated needs of the complainant, for the duration of the investigation when, in its judgment, there is a need to do so.  For example, a respondent may be moved from a complainant's residence, restricted from entering certain parts of campus and/or restricted from attending class. The College will also take steps to minimize the impact of interim measures on respondents. While interim measures are not, nor intended to be, disciplinary, non-compliance may be considered a violation of the student code of conduct. The College may impose interim measures immediately, without a hearing. Respondents may ask the College to review a decision to impose interim measures, but only to address the impact of the imposed measure and the preference for other alternatives. 

Right to Withdraw a Complaint

  1. A complainant has the right to withdraw a complaint at any stage of the process. However, the College may continue to act on the issue identified in the complaint in order to comply with its obligation under this policy or its legal obligations.

Protection from Reprisals, Retaliation or Threats

  1. It is contrary to this Policy for anyone to retaliate, engage in reprisals, or threaten to retaliate against a complainant or other individual for:
    1. having pursued rights under this Policy or the Ontario Human Rights Code;
    2. having participated or co-operated in an investigation under this Policy or the Ontario Human Rights Code; or
    3. having been associated with someone who has pursued rights under this Policy or the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The College takes reasonable steps to protect persons from reprisals, retaliation or threats. This may entail, for example, advising individuals in writing of their duty to refrain from committing a reprisal and sanctioning individuals for a breach of this duty. The College may also address the potential for reprisals by providing an accommodation appropriate in the circumstances.

Unsubstantiated or Vexatious Complaints

  1. If a person discloses or files a sexual violence complaint that is not supported by evidence gathered during an investigation, the complaint will be dismissed.
  2. A disclosure or complaint that is found, following investigation, to be frivolous, vexatious or in bad faith or made purposely to annoy, embarrass, or harm the respondent, may result in sanctions or discipline against the complainant.


  1. Confidentiality is particularly important to those individuals who have disclosed sexual violence. The confidentiality of all persons involved in a report of sexual violence must be strictly observed, and the College will exercise care to protect and respect the confidentiality of all persons, including the complainant, respondent and witnesses by restricting routine access to information to individuals with a need for such access and by providing education and training to those who are regularly involved in the administration of reports and complaints. 
  2. Notwithstanding the above statement, confidentiality cannot be assured if an individual is at imminent risk of self-harm; an individual is at imminent risk of harming another; or there are reasonable grounds to believe that others in the College or wider community may be at risk of harm.
  3. In such circumstances as described above, the information will only be shared with the services or authorities necessary to prevent harm, including the College Threat Assessment Team. The name of the assaulted individual will not be released to the public by the College.
  4. Where the College becomes aware of an allegation of sexual violence by a member of the college community against another member of the college community, the College may have an obligation to take steps to ensure that the matter is dealt with in order to comply with legal obligations or its policies to investigate such allegations. In such cases, certain College administrators may be informed about the reported incident on a “need-to-know” and confidential basis, but without necessarily disclosing the identities of the persons involved.
  5. Information about the number of times supports, services, and accommodations relating to sexual violence are requested and obtained by students will be provided to the Ministry and the Lambton College Board of Governors in accordance with government regulations. There will be no identifying information included in these reports. The College will use this data in order to develop proactive sexual violence prevention measures.

Sexual Misconduct by Employees toward Students

  1. As defined within Bill 26, Strengthening Post-Secondary Institutions and Students Act, Sexual Misconduct means, in relation to a student of an institution:
    1. Physical sexual relations with the student, touching of a sexual nature of the student or behaviour or remarks of a sexual nature toward the student by an employee of the institution where,
      1. The act constitutes an offense under the Criminal Code (Canada)
      2. The act infringes the right of the student under the Humans Rights Code to be free from a sexual solicitation or advance, or
      3. The act constitutes sexual misconduct as defined within this policy
    2. Any conduct by an employee of the institution that infringes the right of the student under the Human Rights Code to be free from a reprisal or threat of reprisal for the rejection of a sexual solicitation or advance.
  2. Sexual Misconduct as defined above is grounds for discharge or discipline, examples of which are included within the Employee Discipline (3000-2-3) policy. The employee is not entitled to notice of termination or any compensation or restitution as a result of the discharge or disciplinary measure.
  3. If an employee commits an act of sexual misconduct as defined above and the employee is discharged for that act, or the employee resigns from their employment, Lambton College will not subsequently re-employee the individual.
  4. An agreement between Lambton College and any person entered into after the date in which the Act comes into force, will not contain any term that prohibits Lambton College or any person related to Lambton College from disclosing that an allegation or complaint of sexual misconduct has been made toward a student.
  5. Notwithstanding the above statement, the College may enter into an agreement described above at the complainant’s request, provided that:
    1. The complainant had reasonable opportunity to receive independent legal advice
    2. There have been no undue attempts to influence the complainant with respect to the request
    3. The agreement includes an opportunity for the student to decide to waive their own confidentiality in the future and the process for doing so; and
    4. The agreement is of a set and limited duration.


Sexual assault
Sexual assault is a criminal offense under the Criminal Code of Canada and is any type of unwanted sexual act done by one person to another that violates the sexual integrity of the victim and involves a range of behaviours from any unwanted touching to penetration. Sexual assault is characterized by a broad range of behaviours that involve the use of force, threats, or control towards a person, which make that person feel uncomfortable, distressed, frightened, or threatened, or that are carried out in circumstances in which the person has not freely agreed or consented, or is incapable of consenting.
Sexual violence
Any sexual act or act targeting a person's sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened, or attempted against a person without the person's consent, and includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism and sexual exploitation.


The voluntary and explicit agreement to engage in the sexual activity in question. It is the act of willingly agreeing to engage in specific sexual activity, and requires that a person be able to freely choose between two options: yes or no. For consent, there must be an understandable exchange of affirmative words that indicates a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. Further:

  • Silence or non-communication must never be interpreted as consent and a person in a state of diminished judgment cannot consent.
  • A person does not give consent if they are incapable of understanding the risks and consequences of a sexual act or the ability to understand that they can refuse, by virtue of, for example, intoxication, being drugged, being asleep or being unconscious.
  • A person may be unable to give consent if they have a mental disability preventing them from fully understanding the sexual activity.
  • A person is incapable of giving consent to a person in a position of trust, power or authority over him/her, such as, a faculty member in a relationship with a student whom they teach, an administrator in a relationship with an individual who reports to him/her.
  • A person who has been threatened or coerced (i.e. is not agreeing voluntarily) to engage in the sexual activity is not consenting to it.
  • The fact that consent was given in the past to a sexual activity or dating relationship does not mean that consent is deemed to exist for all future sexual activity.
  • A person can withdraw consent at any time during the course of a sexual activity.
  • Consent cannot be given on behalf of another person.

It is the responsibility of the initiator of sexual activity to ensure clear and affirmative responses are communicated at all stages of sexual activity.

It is also the responsibility of each party to know if the person they are engaging with sexually is a minor.

The Criminal Code defines “consent” as follows:

Consent: The voluntary agreement to engage in the sexual activity in question. No consent is obtained, where:

  • the agreement is expressed by the words or conduct of a person other than the complainant;
  • the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity;
  • the accused induces the complainant to engage in the activity by abusing a position of trust, power or authority;
  • the complainant expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to engage in the activity; or
  • the complainant, having consented to engage in sexual activity, expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to continue to engage in the activity.

Other Relevant Terms

Acquaintance sexual assault
Sexual contact that is forced, manipulated, or coerced by a partner, friend or acquaintance.
Age of consent for sexual activity
The age of consent is the age at which a person can legally consent to sexual activity. In Canada, children under 12 can never legally consent to sexual acts. Sixteen is the legal age of consent for sexual acts. There are variations on the age of consent for adolescents who are close in age between the ages of 12 and 16. Twelve and 13 year-olds can consent to have sex with other youth who are less than two years older than themselves. Youth who are 14 and 15 years old may consent to sexual involvement that is mutual with a person who is less than 5 years older. Youths 16 and 17 years old may legally consent to sexual acts with someone who is not in a position of trust or authority.
In the context of sexual violence, coercion is unreasonable and persistent pressure for sexual activity. Coercion is the use of emotional manipulation, blackmail, threats to family or friends, or the promise of rewards or special treatment, to persuade someone to do something they do not wish to do, such as being sexual or performing particular sexual acts.
Drug-facilitated sexual assault
The use of alcohol and/or drugs (prescription or non-prescription) by a perpetrator to control, overpower or subdue a victim for purposes of sexual assault.
A form of criminal harassment prohibited by the Criminal Code of Canada. It involves behaviours that occur on more than one occasion and which collectively instill fear in the victim or threaten the victim/target’s safety or mental health. Stalking can also include threats of harm to the target’s friends and/or family. These behaviours include, but are not limited to non-consensual communications (face-to-face, phone, email, social media); threatening or obscene gestures; surveillance; sending unsolicited gifts; “creeping” via social media/cyber-stalking; and uttering threats.
Some who have experienced sexual violence may choose to identify as a survivor. Individuals might be more familiar with the term "victim". We use the term "survivor" throughout this policy where relevant because some who have experienced sexual assault believe they have overcome the violent experience and do not wish to identify with the victimization. It is the prerogative of the person who has experienced these circumstances to determine how they wish to identify.
When someone affected by sexual violence tells a member of the College community about an incident of sexual assault or violence that has occurred on or off campus.
When someone affected by sexual violence, a witness, or a community member that has received a disclosure, reports the incident according to their college's reporting procedures.
Formal Complaint
When a survivor of sexual violence requests a formal investigation to resolve a complaint of sexual violence.

References to Other Policies or Legal Requirements


If You Have Experienced or Have Been Affected by Sexual Violence

If you have experienced or been affected by sexual violence and require support and accommodation, please go to the Wellness Centre in Room B1-240 at Lambton College during regular business hours and speak with the college nurse. After regular business hours, please visit:

Bluewater Health Sexual/Domestic Assault Treatment Centre

  • Call the Sexual/Domestic Assault Treatment Centre at 519-464-4400 x 4522, Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Go to the Emergency Department at Bluewater Health, 89 Norman Street, Sarnia ON. Call switchboard (x 0) and ask to speak to the Sexual/Domestic Assault Treatment nurse on-call

It is often difficult to disclose and report incidents of sexual violence. It is entirely up to you if you choose to report the incident; however, we strongly encourage you to do so. A number of other resources are available to you, including:

  • Individuals can report sexual violence incidents safely and anonymously online by completing the Sexual Violence Report Form
  • Lambton College Campus Security - x 3333
  • Sexual Assault Survivors Centre - 519-337-3320
  • Distress Line - 519-336-3000
  • Pregnancy Options and Support Centre - 519-383-7115
  • CMHA Mental Health Helpline - 866- 531-2600
  • Good2Talk Helpline - 866-925-5454
  • Lambton Public Health - 519-383-8331
  • Victim Services of Sarnia-Lambton - 519-344-8861 x 5238

Information about these resources is available below.

Anyone who has experienced sexual violence has the right to:

  1. be treated with dignity and respect,
  2. be heard and supported,
  3. be informed about on- and off-campus services and resources,
  4. decide whether or not to access available services and to choose those services they feel will be most beneficial,
  5. decide whether to report to campus security and/or local police,
  6. have an on-campus investigation with the institution’s full cooperation,
  7. assistance in developing and implementing a safety plan, and
  8. have reasonable and necessary actions to prevent further unwanted contact with the alleged respondent(s).

If You Would like to File a Formal Complaint

The College nurse in the Wellness Centre (Room B1-240) can assist you with filing a complaint. If the respondent is a member of the College community, you may file a complaint under this Policy.

Individuals who have experienced sexual violence may also wish to press charges under the Criminal Code. Campus Security and the Wellness Centre can also assist you with contacting the local Police.

Please note that you are not required to file a formal complaint to obtain supports, services, or appropriate accommodation from the College.

What to Do if You Witnessed Sexual Violence

If you witness sexual violence, call Campus Security at x 3208, and they will assist you by providing the resources and necessary support. If you want to speak to someone directly, please go directly to the Campus Security office at Reception or phone x 3208.

A number of other resources are available to you, including:

  • Sarnia Police Services - 519-344-8861
  • Lambton College Wellness Centre - 519-542-7751 x 3403

Information about these resources is available below.

If an employee of the College witnesses or has knowledge of sexual violence against another member of the College community, the employee is required to report the alleged incident to Campus Security (x 3208) immediately.

Students are strongly encouraged to report incidents of sexual violence, but do not need to report incidents of sexual violence to obtain supports, services, or accommodation from the College.

All members of the College community who have witnessed sexual violence have a duty to co-operate with a College investigation.

What to Do if Someone Discloses Allegations of Sexual Violence

A person may choose to confide in another person about an act of sexual violence, such as a student, instructor, teaching assistant, coach, or staff from housing, health, counselling or security. An individual who has experienced sexual violence may also disclose to staff or faculty members when seeking support and/or academic accommodation. A supportive response involves:

  1. listening without judgement and accepting the disclosure as true;
  2. communicating that sexual violence is never the responsibility of the assaulted individual;
  3. helping the individual identify and/or access available on- or off-campus services, including emergency medical care and counselling;
  4. respecting the individual’s right to choose the services she/he feels are most appropriate and to decide whether to report to the police and/or College nurse;
  5. recognizing that disclosing can be traumatic and an individual’s ability to recall the events may be limited;
  6. respecting the individual’s choices as to what and how much they disclose about their experience; and
  7. making every effort to respect confidentiality and anonymity.

If disclosure is made to a faculty or staff member by a student seeking support or academic accommodation, the faculty or staff member should take the student to the Wellness Centre at Lambton College, and connect him/her with the College nurse and/or counsellors.

If an employee of the College becomes aware of an allegation of sexual violence against another member of the College community, the faculty or staff should report the alleged incident to Campus Security (x 3208) immediately.

Communicating with Individuals who have Experienced Sexual Violence

Sensitive and timely communication with individuals who have experienced sexual violence and their family members (when an individual consents to this communication) is a central part of the College’s first response to sexual violence. To facilitate communication, the College will:

  1. Ensure that designated employees in the Wellness Centre who are knowledgeable about sexual violence, are responsible for advocacy on campus on behalf of employees, students or any other member of the College community who has experienced sexual violence;
  2. Ensure designated employees respond in a prompt, compassionate, and personalized fashion; and
  3. Ensure that the person who has experienced sexual violence and the respondent is provided with reasonable updates about the status of the College investigation of the incident when such an investigation is undertaken.

Roles and Responsibilities of the College Community

While everyone on campus has a role to play in responding to incidents of sexual violence, some campus members will have specific responsibilities which might include:

  1. On-campus health services to provide psychological and emotional support, assist with safety planning and make referrals to other services, including medical services;
  2. Faculty, staff and administrators to facilitate academic accommodations and other needs of those who have been affected by sexual violence (e.g. extensions on assignments) continuing studies from home, and dropping courses;
  3. Residence staff to facilitate safe living arrangements to the best of their abilities;
  4. Student-operated sexual violence services to provide peer supports;
  5. Human Resources to assist with any incidents relating to employees; and
  6. Security to assist with investigations and gathering evidence, implement measures to reduce sexual violence on campus and to collaborate with local police where appropriate.

Information about these resources is available below.

How will the College Respond to a Report of Sexual Violence?

  1. When a complaint of sexual violence has been reported to the College, the College will exercise care to protect and respect the rights of both the complainant and the respondent. The College understands that individuals who have experienced sexual violence may wish to control whether and how their experience will be dealt with by the police and/or the College.  In most circumstances, the person will retain this control. A person who has experienced sexual violence may choose not to request an investigation and has the right not to participate in any investigation that may occur.
  2. In certain circumstances, however, the College may be required to initiate an internal investigation and/or inform the police of the need for a criminal investigation, even without the person’s consent, if the College believes that the safety of other members of the College community is at risk. The confidentiality and anonymity of the person(s) affected will be a high priority in these circumstances.
  3. A report of sexual violence may also be referred to the police, or other community resources at the complainant’s request, where the persons involved are not members of the College community or in circumstances where the College is unable to initiate an internal investigation under this policy.
  4. The College adheres to the following in investigating and making decisions about formal complaints. If an entitlement set out below conflicts with something set out in another College policy, the entitlement set out below shall prevail.
  5. In all three of the cases outlined in sections 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3, the Wellness Centre is responsible for intake. While overall responsibility for investigation and adjudication is outlined below, the College may also decide to use an external investigator where appropriate in the circumstances.
    1. Where the Respondent is a Student (formerly 7.1)
      1. Sexual violence is a violation of 2000-5-1 Student Rights and Responsibilities and Discipline Policy. It is considered a serious offence and will be addressed in a manner that is consistent with other serious offences, up to and including expulsion. See the  Student Rights & Responsibilities & Discipline (2000-5-1) policy for more details on each disciplinary process, including possible penalties. Under this policy, the Registrar is responsible for investigation and adjudication. Appeals of student violations may be pursued on limited grounds and are heard by the Associate Vice-President, Student Success.
    2. Where the Respondent is an Employee (formerly 7.2)
      1. Sexual violence is a violation of the Respectful College Community (4000-5-3) policy. Allegations against employees will be addressed consistent with this Policy, any other relevant College policy and the collective agreement, where applicable. If the complaint is sustained following an investigation, the College will determine the appropriate disciplinary actions consistent with relevant policies and the collective agreement, where applicable, up to and including discharge. Under this policy, when a potential violation by one or more employees is alleged, People & Organizational Development will conduct an investigation and make decisions. There is no formal appeal process for employee violations, though college employees who are members of a union may file a grievance as permitted by the applicable collective agreement. 
    3. Where the Respondent is not a Student or Employee (formerly 7.3)
      1. Contractors, suppliers, volunteers or visitors who attend on campus will be subject to complaints if they engage in prohibited conduct. Where a complaint against the respondent is substantiated, the College will take appropriate action, including penalties, cancellation of contracts, and other sanctions. There is no formal appeal process for supplier, volunteer or visitor violations.
      2. All contractual relationships entered into by the College will be governed by a standard contract compliance clause stating that contractors must comply with this Policy and the Ontario Human Rights Code, including co-operating in investigations. Breach of the clause may result in penalties, cancellation, or other sanctions.
      3. Under this policy, the Human Resources department, in conjunction with Security and/or Facilities where appropriate, is responsible for investigation and adjudication.
    4. Multiple Proceedings (formerly 7.4)
      1. Where criminal and/or civil proceedings are commenced in response to allegations of sexual violence, the College shall conduct its independent investigation into such allegations, and will make its own determination in accordance with its policies and procedures. Where there is an ongoing criminal investigation, the College will co-operate with the local police.

Related Policies, Procedures and Protocols

Appendix A

Use of the term “Rape” in the context of Sexual Violence

This policy refers to the offense of sexual assault to align with the current offense contained in the Criminal Code.  The word “rape” is no longer used in criminal statutes in Canada. The term was replaced many years ago to acknowledge that sexual violence is not about sex but is about acts of psychological and physical violence. The term “sexual assault” provides a much broader definition and criminalizes unwanted behaviour such as touching and kissing as well as unwanted oral sex and vaginal and anal intercourse. Although the term no longer has a legal meaning in Canada, the term rape is still commonly used.

Dispelling the Myths and Misconceptions About Sexual Assault
Myth Fact

It wasn’t rape, so it wasn’t sexual violence.

Sexual assault and sexual violence encompasses a broad range of unwanted sexual activity. Any unwanted sexual contact is considered to be sexual violence. A survivor can be severely affected by all forms of sexual violence, including unwanted fondling, rubbing, kissing, or other sexual acts. Many forms of sexual violence involve no physical contact, such as stalking or distributing intimate visual recordings. All of these acts are serious and can be damaging.

Sexual assault can’t happen to me or anyone I know.

Sexual assault can and does happen to anyone. People of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds may be sexually assaulted, but the vast majority of sexual assaults happen to women and girls. Young women, Aboriginal women and women with disabilities are at greater risk of experiencing sexual assault.

Sexual assault is most often committed by strangers.

Someone known to the person, including acquaintances, dating partners, and common-law or married partners, commit approximately 75 per cent of sexual assaults.

Sexual assault is most likely to happen outside in dark, dangerous places.

The majority of sexual assaults happen in private spaces like a residence or private home.

If an individual doesn’t report to the police, it wasn’t sexual assault.

Just because an individual doesn’t report the assault doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Fewer than one in ten individuals report the crime to the police.

It’s not a big deal to have sex with someone while he/she is drunk, stoned or passed out.

If a person 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.

If the person chose to drink or use drugs, then it isn’t considered sexual assault.

This is a prominent misconception about sexual assault. No one can consent while drunk or incapacitated.

If the individual didn’t scream or fight back, it probably wasn’t sexual assault.

If the individual does not fight back, the sexual assault is their fault.  

When an individual is sexually assaulted they may become paralyzed with fear and be unable to fight back. The person may be fearful that if they struggle, the perpetrator will become more violent.

If you didn’t say no, it must be your fault.

People who commit sexual assault/abuse are trying to gain power and control over the assaulted individual. They want to make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the individual to say no. A person does not need to actually say the word “no” to make it clear that they did not want to participate. The focus in consent is on hearing a “yes”.

If an individual isn’t crying or visibly upset, it probably wasn’t a serious sexual assault.

Every individual responds to the trauma of sexual assault differently. They may cry or they may be calm. They may be silent or very angry. Their behaviour is not an indicator of their experience. It is important not to judge a person by how he or she responds to the assault.

If someone does not have obvious physical injuries, like cuts or bruises, they probably were not sexually assaulted.

Lack of physical injury does not mean that a person wasn’t sexually assaulted. An offender may use threats, weapons, or other coercive actions that do not leave physical marks. The person may have been unconscious or been otherwise incapacitated.

If it really happened, the person would be able to easily recount all the facts in the proper order.

Shock, fear, embarrassment and distress can all impair memory. Many people attempt to minimize or forget the details of the assault as a way of coping with trauma. Memory loss is common when alcohol and/or drugs are involved.

Individuals lie and make up stories about being sexually assaulted; and most reports of sexual assault turn out to be false.

According to Statistics Canada, fewer than one in 10 sexually assaulted persons report the crime to the police. Approximately 2% of sexual assault reports are false.

The number of false reports for sexual assault is very low. Sexual assault carries such a stigma that many people prefer not to report.

Persons with disabilities don’t get sexually assaulted.

Individuals with disabilities are at a high risk of experiencing sexual violence or assault. Those who live with activity limitations are over two times more likely to be sexually assaulted than those who are able-bodied.

A spouse or significant other cannot sexually assault their partner.

Sexual assault can occur in a married or other intimate partner relationship. The truth is, sexual assault occurs ANY TIME there is not consent for sexual activity of any kind. Being in a relationship does not exclude the possibility of, or justify, sexual assault. A person has the right to say “no” at ANY point.

People who are sexually assaulted “ask for it” by their provocative behaviour or dress.

This statement couldn’t be more hurtful or wrong. Nobody deserves to be sexually assaulted. Someone has deliberately chosen to be violent toward someone else; to not get consent. Nobody asks to be assaulted. Ever. No mode of dress, no amount of alcohol or drugs ingested, no matter what the relationship is between the assaulted person and the perpetrator or what the person’s occupation is, sexual assault is always wrong.

Sexual assault only happens to women

Not true. The majority of sexual assaults are committed against women by men, but people of all genders, from all backgrounds have been/can be assaulted.

Sexual abuse of males is rare.

According to Statistics Canada, six percent of males 15 or over reported that they had experienced sexual victimization.  Sexual assault/abuse occurs in every economic, ethnic, age and social group.

If you got aroused, got an erection or ejaculated you must have enjoyed it.

It is normal for your body to react to physical stimulation. Just because you became physically aroused does not mean that you liked it, or wanted it or consented in any way. If you experienced some physical pleasure, this does not take away the fact that sexual abuse happened or the effects or feelings of abuse.

Appendix B

Sexual Assault Centres (Ontario)
Region in OntarioSexual Assault Centre24-hr
Crisis Line
Office Phone
(Sault Ste. Marie)
Women In Crisis Algoma1-877-759-1230705-759-1230
Belleville-Quinte Sexual Assault Centre for Quinte & District1-877-544-6424613-967-6300
BrantSexual Assault Centre of Brant519-751-3471519-751-1164
Bruce CountyWomen's House Serving Bruce and Grey: Sexual Assault Services1-866-578-5566519-372-1113
Chatham-KentChatham-Kent Sexual Assault Crisis Centre519-354-8688519-354-8908
CornwallSexual Assault Support Services for Women, CornwallEnglish: 613-932-1603
French: 613-932-1705
East Algoma
(Elliot Lake)
Counselling Centre of East Algoma1-800-721-0077705-848-2585
Guelph-WellingtonGuelph-Wellington Women in Crisis519-836-5710
Sexual Assault & Violence Intervention Services of Halton905-875-1555906-825-3622
HamiltonSexual Assault Centre Hamilton & Area (SACHA)905-525-4162905-525-4573
(Peterborough & Area)
Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre705-741-0260705-748-5901
Kenora Kenora Sexual Assault Centre807-468-7233
KingstonSexual Assault Centre Kingston613-544-6424
WaterlooSexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region519-741-8633519-571-0121
London-MiddlesexSexual Assault Centre London519-438-2272
MuskokaAthena’s Sexual Assault Counselling & Advocacy Centre705-737-2008
NiagaraNiagara Region Sexual Assault Centre905-682-4584905-682-7258
NipissingAmelia Rising Sexual Assault Centre of Nipissing705-476-3355705-840-2403
Oshawa-DurhamOshawa-Durham Rape Crisis Centre905-668-9200905-444-9672
Ottawa SASCSexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa613-234-2266613-725-2160
Ottawa RCCOttawa Rape Crisis Centre613-562-2333613-562-2334
PeelHope 24/7: Sexual Assault Centre of Peel1-800-810-0180905-792-0821
RenfrewWomen's Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County1-800-663-3060613-735 – 5551
Sarnia-LambtonSexual Assault Treatment Centre
Bluewater Health
89 Norman St.
Sarnia, Ontario  N7T 6S3
Come to Emergency Dept.
Call switchboard (ext. 0) and ask to speak to the Sexual /Domestic Assault Treatment nurse on-call
At Bluewater Health, Dial 0 (zero) and ask for the Centre519-464-4400
8am – 4pm
SudburyVoices for Women
1-866-531-2600705-523-7100 ext. 2647
Thunder BayThunder Bay Sexual Abuse & Sexual Assault Counselling & Crisis Centre1-866-863-0511 women
1-866-887-0015 men
TimminsTimmins and Area Women in Crisis1-877-268-8380705-268-8381
TorontoMulticultural Women Against Rape/Toronto Rape Crisis Centre
(416) 597-8808416-597-1171
Windsor-EssexSexual Assault Crisis Centre of Essex County519-253-9667519-253-3100
YorkWomen’s Support Network of York Region1-800-263-6734

Pour le support francophone aux femmes victimes d'agression sexuelle:

CALACS (Francophone Sexual Assault Centres) in Ontario

Ellevive: CALACS du Nord de l'Ontario
C.P. 849 Timmins ON  P4N 7G7
705 360-5657

Centre francophone d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel d'Ottawa
40, rue Cobourg
Ottawa ON  K1N 8Z6
613 789-8096

Centre Novas : Centre francophone d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel de Prescott-Russell
C.P. 410
Casselman ON K0A 1M0
613 764-5700
1 866 772-9922 poste 221

Carrefour des femmes du Sud-Ouest de l'Ontario: CALACS de la région du Sud-Ouest
Casier Postal 774, London ON N6A 4Y8
519 858-0954
1 888 858-0954

Centre Victoria pour femmes
C.P. 308
Sudbury ON P3E 4P2
705 670-2517

Centr’Elles, centre des Femmes Francophones du Nord-Ouest de l'Ontario
P.O. Box 26058
Thunder Bay ON P7B 0B2
807 684-1955
1 888 415-4156

Oasis Centre des femmes
465 Yonge Street PO Box 73022
Wood Street PO Toronto ON M4Y 2W5
416 591-6565

Colibri - Centre des femmes francophones du comté de Simcoe
80, rue Bradford, bureau 340
Barrie ON L4N 6S7
705 797-2060
1 877 797-2050

Centre de santé communautaire Hamilton/Niagara - Espace entre Elles
1320 rue Barton Est
Hamilton ON L8H 2W1
905 528-0163
1 866 437-7606

Pour le support francophone aux femmes victimes d'agression sexuelle, se il vous plaît visitez (for French-language support for sexually assaulted women, please also visit):

Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes: http://aocvf.ca/


A number of resources contributed to the development of this document, including the sexual assault policies and procedures from several colleges and universities in Ontario, notably, Durham College, University of Guelph and Lakehead University, as well as the Metrac discussion paper on sexual assault policies on campuses and “Developing a Response to Sexual Violence: A Resource Guide for Ontario’s Colleges and Universities”, by the Ontario Women’s Directorate. The “Dispelling Myths and Misconceptions

About Sexual Assault” chart is from the Women’s Directorate guide.


For questions or concerns regarding this policy, please contact the Policy Sponsor by phoning our main line 519-542-7751.