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What is Sexualized Violence?

Sexualized violence is a broad, non-legal, umbrella term that encompasses all forms of violence, physical or psychological, perpetrated through sexual conduct, targeting someone’s sex, sexual identity, gender identity or expression. It goes beyond the legal definitions of sexual assault or sexual harassment. It may include, but is not limited to, a wide range of crimes and discriminatory conduct, such as sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, intimate partner sexual violence, voyeurism, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, stalking, or technology-facilitated sexual violence. Sexualized violence is an expression of power that exists within a system of oppression and is not about isolated incidents of sex crimes. Anyone can experience sexual violence regardless of gender, sex, class, age or race, however women trans and non-binary folx, especially Indigenous, Black and other racialized folx experience sexualized violence at disproportionate rates. 

What is intimate partner violence?

Intimate partner violence is a form of sexualized violence. It is a pattern of behavior where one person intimidates, isolates, dominates, or maintains power and control over another person. This can be physical, sexual, spiritual, emotional, financial, or a combination of any of these types.

Abusive relationships don’t feel bad all the time. There is often fun and affection interrupted by times of fear, control, and/or violence. Many people who have survived abusive relationships describe a cycle of abuse.

What’s a healthy relationship?

Relationships are different for everyone, and differ by people’s experiences, needs, abilities and personalities. But here are some signs of a healthy relationship:

  • All partners feeling safe
  • Admitting your mistakes
  • Listening to your partner(s)
  • Practicing equality
  • Affection and intimacy that feel good and safe for everyone
  • Expressing your feelings
  • Honesty and trust
  • Being encouraging of your partner(s)
  • Being supportive and understanding
  • Disagreeing in a respectful way
  • Being respectful of boundaries
  • Practicing good consent

What’s an unhealthy relationship?

Some relationships start out feeling really good, but over time one or more people in the relationship start to feel unhappy. While it is natural for people and relationships to go through periods of stress and difficulty, your romantic relationships and friendships should bring joy to your life and be something that adds to your life, not something that feels like a burden or fills you with fear or dread. Here are some signs of an unhealthy relationship:

  • One or more people feeling unsafe
  • Boundaries not being respected
  • Unequal power dynamic
  • Mocking, belittling, or humiliating
  • Control or manipulation
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Being dishonest
  • Poor or disrespectful communication
  • Not practicing good consent
  • Abuse or violence

Everyone deserves to live free from violence and abuse. Everyone deserves to feel safe. If you or someone you care about is experiencing abuse or an unhealthy relationship, there is help. Please reach out to the SASC to learn more about available supports. 


What are some legal definitions related to Sexualized Violence?

*This site only provides general information and is not meant to be used as legal advice. If you need legal advice for specific legal problems, please reach out to a SASC support worker for assistance in seeking the appropriate legal aid. 

Sexual assault is a legal term defined in the Canadian criminal code. Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual activity, such as unwanted kissing, touching or sexual intercourse. Sexual activity without consent is a criminal offence.

In Canada’s Criminal Code there are several sexual assault offences:

  1. Simple Sexual Assault, found in s. 271 of the Criminal Code, is any assault of a sexual nature. No physical injury is required for it to be a criminal offence.
  2. Sexual Assault with a Weapon, found in s. 272 of the Criminal Code, is a sexual assault where the assailant uses, carries, or threatens to use a weapon during the assault.
  3. Aggravated Sexual Assault, found in s. 273 of the Criminal Code, is a sexual assault where the survivor is wounded, maimed, disfigured, or where their life is endangered.

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination under the BC Human Rights Code. It is different from criminal harassment, which is defined in the Criminal Code. Sexual harassment may include:

  • unwanted touching
  • making offensive jokes or remarks about women or men
  • making sexual requests or suggestions
  • staring at or making unwelcome comments about someone’s body
  • showing sexual pictures or images
  • being verbally abusive to someone because of gender

Criminal harassment, under section 264 of the Criminal Code, prohibits certain conduct that causes a person to fear for their safety or the safety of others known to them.

While criminal harassment is not solely a sexual offence, it disproportionately affects women. According to the 2014 General Social Survey, 62% of stalking victims were women, which situates this offence among other forms of sexual violence, including sexual assault and intimate partner violence.

Some other sexual offences in the Canadian Criminal Code include: