Health Information and Tools > Health A-Z >  Sexual Abuse or Assault: What You Need to Know

Main Content

Sexual Abuse or Assault

What you need to know

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Sexual violence can happen to anyone. Sexual abuse and assault is never the victim's fault.

Sexual abuse and assault is always the assailant’s fault.

You have the right to decide to have sex or not. And you can change your mind at any time, even if it’s after you have started to have sex.

Part of being in a healthy relationship means that you and your partner talk about how intimate you want to be and don’t feel pressure to do something you don’t want to do.

Any sexual contact without consent is sexual assault. Consent means both people give and get permission to take part in sexual activity.

There are many myths about sexual violence. We can create a healthy culture by talking about sex and speaking up against rape jokes or people shown as a sex objects in the media.

Staying safe

If you have been affected by sexual violence, you may worry about your safety. We can all take steps to help keep ourselves and each other safe.

  • When you go out, go with a group of friends. Arrive together, watch out for each other, and leave together.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and know where exits are or where you can go for help if you need it. When you go out at night, look for a parking spot in an area with lots of light.
  • Make a plan for safety – know where there safe places are, let others know where you are going, know your own limits around drugs and alcohol and have a backup plan

Tips to teach children

Tell children:

  • that’s it’s not okay for anyone to act in a sexual way with them, such as asking to take a photo of their private parts or sexual touching
  • that it’s okay to say no and leave the situation if they are uncomfortable
  • that their bodies are their own and that it’s okay if they don’t want a hug or other contact that makes them uncomfortable
  • to use proper names for their body parts so they can tell you if someone is acting in a sexual way with them
  • to talk to you or another trusted adult if they don’t feel safe, and to keep on telling an adult until they say they can help

Other resources

Learn about sexual health and your rights at Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights or call 1-888-642-2725.

Visit Teaching Sexual Health for information about teaching children about consent.

Current as of: June 23, 2020

Author: Sexual and Reproductive Health Services, AHS