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Sexual violence
Its impacts and effects

Sexual violence affects victims as well as those close to them such as family and friends. Anyone can experience sexual violence: children, seniors, teens and adults, young and older people... Women, men and people of all gender identities are targeted. The person who commits the violence is often known to the victim - he or she may live nearby, be a family member or close friend, a health care professional, etc.


Some definitions

Sexual assault

A sexual assault is an act of a sexual nature, with or without physical contact, committed without the consent of the targeted person.

This may include kissing, touching, penetration without consent, exhibitionism, frotteurism, voyeurism or viewing pornographic material under coercion.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is the act of imposing on a person, without his or her consent, remarks or behaviors with a sexual connotation.

It can be experienced in physical places (bus, subway, bar, school, factory, office, etc.) or virtual (images or texts by email, texting, social media).

Sexual exploitation

 Sexual exploitation occurs when someone uses a person's sexuality without obtaining their consent or respecting their well-being.

It is the exercise of control over a person through physical force, blackmail or manipulation for financial, social or personal gain.

Cyber sexual violence

 Cyber violence refers to any form of violence in the digital world.

 Whether your intimate images are shared without your consent or you receive unwanted sexual messages, it is an attack on your dignity.


In sexual matters, consent refers to a person's voluntary agreement to participate in sexual activity, with or without physical contact, at a specific time.

Consent can be given verbally or non-verbally and can be withdrawn at any time. In all cases, the absence of clear consent means refusal.

In addition, consent must be free, informed and capable. This means that it is not valid if the person has been manipulated, has had information withheld from him or her, or is unconscious, for example. In this sense, any sexual activity that takes place without a person's consent is sexual violence.


Impacts and effects

CALACS Longueuil Centre d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions a caractere sexuel Femmes soutien Violences sexuelles Consentement Agression sexuelle exploitation sexuelle harcelement sexuel cyber violence sexuelle consequences Rive-Sud Monteregie

Sexual violence can have an immense impact on the quality of life of survivors.

It is often a traumatic event that can have long-term consequences. The fact of having been assaulted implies that the woman's life was in danger, that her integrity and privacy were violated.


The emotions most often reported by survivors following a sexual assault:

-       Fear ;

-       Shame ;

-       Humiliation;

-       Anxiety;

-       Anger ;

-       Guilt.


It is important to realize that reactions following sexual assault are different  from one person to another. Each person has their own story that belongs to them.


Respecting your pace is important in this process. Listening to your needs is essential and is a first step to feeling better.


Women who have experienced sexual assault will have to deal with the psychological, sexual, relational or other consequences that may arise following the assault.


Here are some examples of possible consequences:


-       Panic ;

-       “Flashback”;

-       Insomnia ;

-       Nightmares;

-       Impacts on sexuality;

-       Difficulty concentrating;

-       Depressive symptoms;

-       Suicidal thoughts;....


To get through these difficult times, some will resort to

“coping mechanisms” that can cause further difficulties,

such as alcoholism and drug addiction.

For many, the physical effects add to the list of harms already experienced : injuries, lesions, STIs, HIV/AIDS etc.


Sexual assaults also have social consequences. Fear becomes part of women's life and forces her to “adjust” her lifestyle to increase her safety or sense of safety.


Rape culture

Rape culture is described as

"a set of behaviors that trivialize, excuse, and justify sexual violence, or turn it into a joke and entertainment"

(Council on the Status of Women, 2022).


The responsibility for the assault is placed on the victim, and her word is often invalidated or questioned.

One of the ways in which rape culture manifests itself is through sexist practices that discourage women from reporting their abusers and encourage the glorification or de-responsibility of abusers.

For example, when women decide to report, they will receive comments such as "Don't do it, you'll break up the family. "Are you sure, you're going to break up his career?

  • Victims often make false accusations of sexual assault without good reason
    FALSE The percentage of false accusations is only 2%, as with any other crime. This argument is often spread by society, and has the effect of casting doubt on survivors' testimony. Many women do not always remember the details of the assault: alcohol or drug use, as well as fear and distress, can affect memory. This lack of precise memory cannot be used to invalidate a survivor's complaint.
  • Women who have been sexually assaulted have provoked the assault and are responsible for it
    FALSE No matter how women behave, whether it's going out late at night, walking down a poorly-lit street, consuming alcohol or drugs, or dressing seductively, they are never responsible for the sexual violence committed against them. They do not seek to be assaulted, humiliated or violate This myth sends a clear message to victims: it's their fault, and it's up to them to avoid any behavior that could be interpreted as sexual provocation or invitation. When, in fact, it's rather an act of domination for which the women are not responsible.
  • Abusers are men with uncontrollable sexual urges or mental health issues.
    FALSE In reality, it's an act of domination.  Through sexual aggression, the aggressor is not satisfying a sexual need, but rather a need for power, a desire to subdue and control the other person.  Most aggressors have no mental health problems, but some plead insanity as a defense.
  • Victims are usually attacked by strangers.
    FALSE  In 80% of cases, the aggressors are in the victim's inner circle. So they often use strategies such as manipulation, blackmail and threats to get their way. The vast majority of sexual assaults are premeditated.   The assailant takes the time to plan his or her actions, to study the victim and to establish a relationship of trust with her. The aggressor may be a friend, colleague, person in authority, neighbor, family member, spouse or acquaintance.
  • A person who is intoxicated by alcohol or drugs can give consent in the same way as if they were sober.
    It depends...  For consent to a sexual relationship to be clear, and therefore valid, a person must be capable of giving his or her consent. When a person has been under the influence of (alcohol and/or drugs), their judgment can be affected. In the case of severe alcohol or drug intoxication, consent is therefore invalid. The person must be conscious in order to give consent. Even if a person consumes one or more substances, whether voluntarily or not, they never consent to sexual assault
  • Sexual assault is a serious but rare issue.
    FALSE  In Quebec, nearly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men report having been a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime. Sexual violence is frequent and not an isolated event. However, only a small percentage of assaults (5 to 6%) are reported to the police. In 8 out of 10 assaults, the aggressor is someone known to the survivor (intimate partner, friend, acquaintance, etc.).
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