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Government of Canada / Gouvernement du Canada


Sexual violence and consent

Sexual violence exists everywhere in society and has nothing to do with sex — it’s about power and control. The difference between sexual violence and a sexual act is consent.


What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence refers to any sexual act that happens without consent, including threats or attempts to obtain sex or unwanted sexual comments or advances. Sexual violence can come from any person, regardless of their relationship to the victim/survivor or the setting they’re in.

And it’s not just physical. It’s important to remember that sexual violence can describe a range of actions, including:

While not all sexual violence is physical, any sexual touching without consent is a crime.

What is consent?

Consent is the voluntary agreement to do a particular sexual activity at a particular time — and it only applies to that activity at that time. It’s not just about saying yes or no once: Anything new or later means getting consent again. Everyone involved must actively, willingly, and continuously give consent to the sexual activity.

In Canada, a person must be at least 16 years old to be able to legally consent to sexual activity. For more detailed information, visit Age of Consent to Sexual Activtity (Department of Justice Canada).

What does consent look like?

For sex to be great, is has to be great for both people involved, which means communication, respect and meaningful consent. For consent to be meaningful, it must be:

How can I help someone who has experienced sexual violence?

If it happens to you:

If it happens to someone you know:

True or false?

Do you know what meaningful consent looks like? Read the scenarios below and see whether the statements are true or false.

Need help?

If you or someone you know is experiencing gender-based violence, help is available.

Get help now

If you need immediate assistance, call 911 or your local law enforcement.

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