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The PLEA: Hanging Out and Hooking Up

The PLEA: Hanging Out and Hooking Up

Sexual Assault

Know No

When it comes to any kind of sexual contact – from touching to kissing to intercourse – everyone has the right to say “No” to anyone, at any time.

No one has the right to engage in sexual activity with another person without their consent – ever. If the other person does not consent, sexual contact is a crime called sexual assault.

When it comes to sexual assault, it is important for teens to understand that agreeing to certain things does not mean that you are agreeing to any or all sexual activity. Sexual assault is when another person has sexual contact with you without your consent. Sexual contact without your consent is sexual assault even if you...

  • agreed to go home with the other person or invited them into your place
  • agreed to go out on a date
  • agreed to some sexual activity with them but not all sexual activities
  • agreed to the activity in the past

These rules apply to people who have never met before, people who are going out and people who are married. Victims of dating violence who have been physically or sexually assaulted have the same legal options as those assaulted by strangers. Many, many incidents of dating violence go unreported. Studies suggest that victims of sexual assault are much more likely to report the crime when it is committed by a stranger rather than a friend or date. Often people don’t think of dating violence as potentially criminal behaviour and may even blame the victim.

From Statistics Canada...

  • The sexual assault rate is 1.5 times higher for children and youth than adults.
  • The majority of sexual offences committed against youth under 18 were sexual assaults with no or minor physical injuries.
  • While both boys and girls are vulnerable to sexual violence, over 80% were female.

Only Yes Means Yes

Respecting someone’s wishes when they say “no” is an important rule to live by, but it is also important to remember that only yes means yes. When it comes to sexual activity, just because someone says nothing it does not necessarily mean that they want to continue or go further.

Under Canadian law, consent must be affirmative and ongoing. Affirmative consent means that a person communicates their consent freely through words and/or actions. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that there is no such thing as implied consent. For example, consent cannot be implied simply because the person doesn’t object to or resist sexual advances, is silent or otherwise passive.

Because consent must also be ongoing, consent can be withdrawn at any time through words or actions – even if a person initially agreed to the sexual activity. The University of Victoria’s Anti-Violence Project puts it this way...

The person wishing to initiate an act (e.g., hold hands, make out, cuddle, touch different body parts, etc.) or change an act (e.g., switch from kissing to touching) is responsible for initiating the conversation about consent... Having established consent for one activity does not mean that consent has been established for all activities. Just because someone consented to dance with someone else, it doesn’t necessarily mean they consented to having their body touched. Just because someone consented to having their body touched, doesn’t mean they have consented to making out. Just because someone consented to making out, it doesn’t mean that they have consented to having sex. Check in every step of the way.

Having the courage to ask questions and to speak up about what you want and don’t want can improve relationships and help both partners stay safe. Not sure how to start the conversation? Check out the Navigating Consent section of the Heart Your Parts website.

Alcohol and drugs are frequently associated with sexual assault. This is sometimes referred to as drug facilitated sexual assault. It is important to note that the Criminal Code states that it is not a defence that a person believed that the victim consented to the activity where the accused person’s belief was...

  • the result of self-induced intoxication
  • willful blindness (deliberately avoiding getting clear consent in a questionable situation)
  • the result of the accused not taking reasonable steps to find out if the victim was consenting

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