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FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What is sexual assault vs. sexual violence?

Sexual assaultis any type of sexual activity in which one of the persons does not consent* – or is made to consent by force or threat of force, manipulation, coercion, or leveraging of power. *See Consent

‘Sexual violence’is a more recently used umbrella term that encompasses all types of unwanted sexual activity, but also the impact of rape culture in our everyday lives. If we think of sexual violence as a pyramid, we are able to see a holistic view of the violence we endure on an everyday basis that has led up to and continues after our experiences of assault.

*Insert pyramid of sexual violence graphic*

From this approach, sexual violence can be:

  • Forced, manipulated, or coerced contact of any kind that is sexual in nature/intent
  • Stalking and cyberstalking or being sent/asked for unwanted/solicited nude photographs
  • Leering, cat-calling, or other forms of verbal and nonverbal unwanted sexual attention of a persistent or abusive nature
  • Leaking nudes, revenge porn, taking sexual photos/videos without the person’s knowledge.
  • Using drugs or alcohol/intoxicated or someone’s level of conscious to rape/assault someone
  • Being a doctor, teacher, police officer, manager or someone else of authority abusing power to engage in unwanted sexua contact, advances, or comments.
  • Being an elder family member and abusing power to guilt/silence someone into assault.
  • Expecting, demanding, relentlessly asking for sexual favours
  • Implied /expressed threat of reprisal for refusing to comply with a sexually-oriented request;
  • Leveraging one’s relationship status or feelings of intimacy to convince someone of engaging in sexual contact out of guilt, shame, or gaslighting.
  • Threatening to self-harm if you do not engage with them sexually
  • Sexualized/fetishized graffiti or remarks especially of queer, trans, and/or people of colour
  • Unnecessary touching or patting by anyone especially persons of authority

But also can be:

  • Sitting in class where the topic of debate is – “was it really rape if…?”
  • Going to a music show where a known abuser is the featured act
  • Watching a comedy/movie/music that makes jokes about rape or uses it to advance the plot / feign character development.
  • Witnessing a perpetrator become the president of the United States
  • Having someone you thought was your friend complain being “friendzoned” and not taking no for an answer because they’re a “nice person”
  • Not being believed when you say any of the above has happened to you/is affecting you and that you’re being “too sensitive”
  • Sitting at a family dinner where your family members are defending a public abuser
  • Sitting at a family dinner with your abuser after your family/friends refused to acknowledge the abuse.
  • Telling your partner you did not want a sexual act to happen, and having to console them, or having them get angry, or having them deny it/defend themselves

Sexual violence is always an act of violation where power and control used to create an non-consensual environment, usually where the victim is guilted, manipulated, shamed, or gaslit into a traumatizing or re-traumatizing experience.  Sexual violence can and does happen to anyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, etc. However, the majority of targets for sexual harassment are women, trans and queer folk (especially those of colour).

Only the individual can choose to define their experience as ‘sexual violence’, and it is not up for debate.


What is Consent?

In an ideal circumstance, consent is a clear, conscious, coherent, informed, comfortable, enthusiastic, verbal, “YES” that followed a transparent conversation between all parties involved without any use of manipulation, coercion, or leveraging of power.

We at SASSL understand, however, that not everyone has had experiences where this was the case and they still believe it was a consensual experience. According to Canadian law, consent is:

  1. You can only consent for yourself.
  2. You actually have to be able to give consent. That means you have to be awake, conscious, and sober enough to make a clear decision.
  3. People in positions of trust, power or authority can’t abuse their position to get sexual activity.
  4. If you imply “NO” or do not imply “YES” through your words or behaviours that’s just as good as saying “NO”.
  5. You have the right to change your mind and stop anytime for any reason during sexual activity.

As for the age of consent, here’s a quick run down:

  1. Under 12: are unable to consent under any circumstance.
  2. Ages 12-16: some flexibility for “close in age” and peers.
  3. 16 is the official age of consent.
  4. Young people under 18 years old are protected from exploitation.

That being said, only the individual who experienced the act/environment is able to decide if it was consensual or not. Their decision on if it was consensual or not is never up for debate. (Yes, that is reasonable as less than %1 of assault claims are faked, while the vast majority are unreported).

Read full consent law here: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/victims-victimes/def.html


Who is a survivor?

The term “survivor” is a chosen identity for a person of any gender, sexual orientation, ability, race, ethnicity, or age, who has experienced sexual violence.

The term “victim” is also a chosen identity for anyone who has experienced sexual violence.

The term “victim” or “survivor” speaks to an individual’s feelings around their experience of sexual violence, all that led up to it and all that came after.

The identifying term for a person who has experienced sexual violence is always a personal choice, can change at any time, and is never up for debate. The choice of “survivor” or “victim” varies person to person and there is no preference for one identity over the other.


Who can call the support line?

  • Anyone who has experienced sexual violence at any point in their life.
  • Anyone who has witnessed someone experience sexual violence at any point in their life.
  • Anyone who knows someone who has experienced sexual violence at any point in their life.
  • Anyone who has questions about sexual violence, student support, and abuser accountability.

Can I call on behalf of someone else?

Yes, we encourage allies, bystanders,  friends, and family, of someone who has experienced sexual violence to call us to ask questions, seek out resources, and for their own personal support. Supporting survivors can be re-traumatizing for those of us who hold space for their experiences and emotions. We are here for you while you are here for them.


How do I report my experience of sexual violence?

Ryerson Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education – second link (also flow chart)

Toronto Police – one link (also flow chart)


Who can I call when the line is not in service hours?

The following lines are available 24/7

  • Assaulted Women’s Helpline
  • Toronto Rape Crisis Centre 416-597-8808
  • Mens Assault Hotline 1-888-887-0015
  • Trans Lifeline (staffed by trans folks) 1 (877) 330-6366
  • Youthline
  • Considering Suicide? Gerstein Crisis Centre or Good to Talk

What resources are available to support survivors on campus and in the GTA?

Please seek out our services page for what services are available or give us a call within our hours of operation so we may better direct you to services.

Rather explore options on your own? Check out our referrals database here https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1JZTR9Co5J6L6NQbhyyqoD6NNc1vsy3OqKTQgaKnmy8g/edit#gid=0