What is sexual violence and what legal avenues are available?

Information Bellehumeur Law


What is sexual violence and what legal avenues are available?


Sexual violence can take many forms but in the most general terms it includes any unwanted conduct violating a person’s sexual integrity. It can be broken down into the legal offences of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Sexual Assault

Any actual or threatened unwanted contact violating a person’s sexual integrity is sexual assault. It is a crime and carries civil liability. It also violates an individual’s human rights in specific situations.

Unwanted sexual contact means that no consent was provided. Consent must given by someone who has the capacity to give it and it must be voluntary. Silence does not equate to consent. It cannot be implied and is not established by submission or lack of resistance. If consent is extracted through coercion or fraud it is not valid. In situations where consent is obtained by a person who is in a position of trust or authority over another, that consent is not valid. An example of such a situation is between an adult and a child but it can extend to other situations. In Canada the legal age of consent is 16. A young person under the age of consent is deemed incapable of consenting to sexual contact unless it is by another young person in specific circumstances.

Sexual Harassment

Any unwanted sexual advances, verbal or physical is sexual harassment. However sexual harassment is not a criminal offence unless it fits the definition of sexual assault or another sexual offence (ie voyeurism, publication of an intimate image or criminal harassment).

Sexual harassment is a human rights violation in certain circumstances. It is considered discrimination based on sex related to the provision of services, goods and facilities, housing, contracts, employment and vocational associations. This includes workplace sexual harassment but can include other situations as well.

Legal Options

  • Criminal Charges

    If you have been sexually assaulted you can report this crime to the police. There is no limitation period to do this. The police will take a statement from you and investigate to determine if they have reasonable and probable grounds to lay a charge. If a charge is laid the matter will go to court. A crown attorney will prosecute the case and must provide ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt.’ This is a very high standard of proof. You will be required to testify as a witness unless the perpetrator pleads guilty. The crown attorney is not your lawyer but will normally meet with you in advance and help to prepare you. If the perpetrator is found guilty he will be sentenced. You are entitled to submit a victim-impact statement at the sentencing hearing and read it out loud if you wish.

    Your rights as a victim of crime can be found in the Canadian Victim Bill of Rights here.

  • CCIB

    Regardless of whether or not there is a conviction or even whether you report a sexual assault to the police, you may also seek financial compensation in Ontario from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB).  For more information see:

  • Legal Advice

    If you live in GTA Toronto, Ottawa or Thunder Bay you may be eligible for up to four hours of free legal advice through the Independent Legal Advice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Pilot Program.  Bellehumeur law accepts vouchers from this program. For more information or to apply see:

  • Human Rights Claim

    If you were sexually assaulted or sexually harassed in your workplace or related to your housing, a vocational service, a contract, or the provision of goods, services or facilities, you may be able to  make a claim under the Ontario Human Rights Code  or the Canadian Human Rights Code.  There is a one year limitation period for this type of claim.  For more information see: or

  • Civil Suit

    You can also sue a perpetrator of sexual assault in civil court. This is an option whether or not you have reported the matter to the police.There is no limitation period in Ontario. To be successful in a civil suit you must prove that you were sexually assaulted and that it caused harm to you. You can be compensated financially for the harm caused to you by the sexual assault. The only consequence that can be imposed to a perpetrator in this process is financial liability. There may also be circumstances where an institution or organization bears liability to you as well.

  • Other Options

    There may be other legal options for you as well.  Other employment related options may be available to you or there may be applicable provisions under a professional regulatory body.

Funding Options

If you think you have a human rights claim or need help with a CICB claim Bellehumeur law can help.  Please call us for a free consultation meeting or phone call. In most circumstances Bellehumeur Law takes cases on a contingency basis which eliminates the need to provide a retainer fee.  Our legal fees will be based on a percentage of the award or settlement you receive. We do this to try to make the legal process more accessible to everyone.

Where to turn for support

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