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Middlesex-London Health Unit

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Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity in which one person does not consent. Sexual assault can range from unwanted touching, to kissing, to intercourse. It takes many different forms, such as stranger rape, date rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape, sexual harassment, child sexual abuse, incest or gang rape. In every instance, it is an act of violence, which is motivated by the wish to control, to humiliate, and to dominate. Sexual assault is a crime of violence acted out in a sexual way. Sexual assault is about power and control; it is not about sex.

Who experiences sexual assault?

Statistics show that the majority of sexual assaults are committed by men against women or children. There is a very small percentage of reported sexual assault victims being male. There are also reports of assault by individuals of the same sex.

Sexual assault does not discriminate. Anyone can potentially be a victim of sexual assault, regardless of age, race, social class, religion, occupation, education level and physical description. It can happen to anyone, anytime, and anywhere.

Who commits sexual assault?

Women face the greatest risk of sexual assault from men they know, not strangers. People often think that a stranger commits sexual assault. In most cases, the victim knows the person that has assaulted them. When a woman knows the man that sexually assaults her, it is less likely that even she will recognize it as a crime. These sexual assaults are no less a crime than those committed by strangers. 

Who is responsible for sexual assault?

People who commit sexual assaults are responsible for these crimes, not the victims. What a woman wears, where she goes, what she drinks or who she talks to does not mean she is inviting sexual assault or giving up her right to say no. The idea that women "ask for it" is often used by offenders to rationalize their behaviour. It also blames the victim for the crime, not the offender.

What are the effects of sexual assault?

The effects of sexual assault on a woman’s mental health and well-being can be just as serious as physical injuries. Victims of sexual assault often report feelings of anger, fear, depression, anxiety and they tend to become less trusting. The emotional and psychological effects of sexual assault can also include trouble sleeping, nightmares, erratic mood swings, eating disorders and flashbacks.

What do I do if I have been sexually assaulted?

  • Do not blame yourself. You did not do anything wrong. 
  • Find a safe environment and call a friend, family member, or the police. 
  • Do not wash, douche, brush your teeth, change your clothes, go to the washroom, or clean up the area where the assault occurred. This may destroy important evidence. If you already have, it does not mean that you cannot report it. 
  • Call your local sexual assault treatment centre. 
  • Get medical attention to determine the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancy. A rape kit exam will be completed.

How do I help a friend that has been sexually assaulted?

  • Listen to what they have to say and take them seriously. 
  • Believe them. People rarely make up stories about sexual assault, but one of the most common fears of sexual assault survivors is not being believed. 
  • Let them know you care by saying things like, "I’m sorry this happened to you" or "I’m glad you could share this with me". 
  • Reassure them that it is not their fault. No one asks to be sexually assaulted, and no one deserves to be assaulted. 
  • Do not blame by asking questions such as, "Why didn’t you fight back?" Instead, say things like, "it’s difficult to fight back when you’re terrified". 
  • Let them control what they want to do next. In a sexual assault, the survivor has been robbed of control by the perpetrator. Help them feel more in control by supporting their decisions. 
  • Let them know that they are not alone in this. Many survivors feel that they are the only one this has happened to and may feel their reactions are not normal.

How can I reduce the risk of sexual assault?

  • Do not leave your beverage unattended. 
  • When you go out with a group of friends watch out for one another and leave together. 
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times. 
  • Do not allow yourself to be alone with someone you do not trust. 
  • Think about the level of intimacy you want in a relationship and clearly state your limits.

Where can I get help?

Regional and Sexual Assault Treatment Centre
(519) 646-6100, ext. 64224

Police - Emergency 911
Sexual Assault Unit (519) 661-5674

Sexual Assault Centre London
(519) 438-2272 (crisis & support line)

London Abused Women’s Centre
(519) 432-2204

Children’s Aid Society
(519) 455-9000

(519) 642-3000 or 1-800-265-1576


Contact Us

For more information, please contact The Clinic at 519-663-5317.

Date of creation: March 26, 2007
Last modified on: September 20, 2019