Sexual assault (SA) is first and foremost a criminal act. It is an act of domination, humiliation, abuse of power and violence. Thus, a sexual assault consists of any act of a sexual nature, with or without physical contact, committed without the consent of the person concerned, using intimidation, manipulation, threats, blackmail or any form of violence: verbal, physical, psychological. Sexual assaults are mostly committed by men and are mainly aimed at women and children.
Sexual violence is a societal problem whose victims can unfortunately come from any socio-economic class and belong to any age, gender, culture, religion or sexual orientation. Sexual assault is not limited in space, it can occur in private in public or even through technological means, for example via social networks.
Sexual assaults can take different forms such as:
Includes any act of a sexual nature with or without physical contact involving a minor (0 to 17 years) and a parental figure and/or authority, responsibility for the minor.
“All forms of unwanted attention or advances with sexual connotations [and done repeatedly] that cause discomfort, fear, and threaten the well-being of a person.
This form of sexual assault may include unwanted looks, words, gestures, threats, propositions, jokes, and the display of pornographic material.” (Table de concertation sur les agressions à caractère sexuel de Montréal, 2008)
Observing the intimacy or nudity of a person or group of people without their consent.” (Table de concertation sur les agressions à caractère sexuel de Montréal, 2008)
The act of voluntarily exposing one’s genitals without the consent of the person or persons concerned. The goal is to provoke a strong reaction or emotion: anger, fear, shock, etc.
This is the use of a person for pornographic or prostitution purposes by coercing them through blackmail, intimidation or violence (psychological or physical)” (J’avise, 2002)
The photographic or filmed depiction of a person under the age of eighteen engaging in explicit sexual activity.
Cyber sexual abuse is a form of sexual violence carried out through various communications technologies, such as the web, social media and texting. It can take the following form(s): cyberstalking, sextortion, child luring, and non-consensual posting of intimate images. (Marie-Vincent Foundation)
As well as a multitude of other forms: sexual touching, frotteurism, female genital mutilation, sex tourism, etc.
There are a variety of consequences that can manifest themselves in different ways and at different times for the person who has experienced sexual assault. Each sexual assault is different, so the consequences that a person may experience as a result of the assault are unique to the person’s experience.
The consequences can also vary due to different elements such as: the frequency and duration of the assault, the relationship between the aggressor and the victim, the type of gestures, words and degree of violence during the assault, the reactions of the people around the victim to the disclosure, etc. (Trêve pour elle, website)
Moreover, the consequences of sexual assault can impact many areas of the victim’s life, whether it be psychological, professional, interpersonal, sexual, physical, etc. Here are some examples of consequences that a victim may experience as a result of a sexual assault: feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, unwanted pregnancy, STIs, decreased or increased sexual activity, hypervigilance, isolation, anorexia, bulimia, nightmares, sleep disorders, flashbacks, depression, low self-esteem, isolation, negative self-image, etc.
It is important to understand and realize that the presence of these consequences is normal following a traumatic event such as a sexual assault.