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No Means No

Without Consent, It's Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault
The definition of sexual assault is any unwanted or non-consensual touching of a sexual nature that the assailant knows is unwanted. It may range from a touch, to kissing, to coercive oral, vaginal or anal penetration.

Consent
Consent is expressing voluntary agreement to the sexual activity in question. Any form of communication that indicates a lack of consent or a revocation of consent including words, gestures, conduct or other means, are enough to establish that a person has not agreed to the sexual activity. Essentially, anything that isn't a clear YES should be questioned directly to avoid any confusion.

A person who is incapacitated by any means (e.g. drugs or alcohol), cannot give consent. There can be no third party consent. Membership in a group does not denote consent. There is also no consent where an assailant has abused their authority, such as a doctor manipulating a patient into sexual activity. Lastly, consent can be revoked at any point in a sexual encounter. You always have the right to say no.

To Help a Friend
Here are some tips to remember if you know someone who has been sexually assaulted:

  • Ensure their physical safety. Are they out of immediate danger? Is the abuse ongoing? Do they need medical attention?
  • Listening. Listening is the best thing you can do at this point. Please BELIEVE them-in 99% of the cases people are telling the truth, even though it might be difficult to believe that someone you know may have been the perpetrator. Be non-judgmental. A question such as, "What were you doing there anyway?" will only add to your friend's feelings of guilt. It's important to remember that under no circumstances is a person responsible for being sexually assaulted; they may have exercised poor judgment or taken a risk, but this does not make them responsible for another person's actions, and it does not mean they asked to be assaulted.
  • Don't express shock or disgust. This only makes it more difficult for them to open up to you.
  • Focus. They need to focus on their feelings after this experience.
  • Encourage "venting" and expression of feelings. This experience may bring up a whole host of different feelings; it is okay for them to feel this way.
  • Acknowledge any feelings of guilt. The person might feel guilty but it is important to let them know that it is not their fault. Acknowledging these feelings will help them work through them.
  • Reaffirm any positive steps they have already taken. Focus on any positive steps they may have taken to care for themselves (fighting back, disclosing, getting help).
  • Allow them the power of decision making. They have been through an experience that has robbed them of their personal power. Regaining the ability to make decisions about what is happening within their life is part of the healing process. As a friend, it can be difficult to sit back, and not to tell them to press charges, or to not want to take matters into your own hands and confronting the perpetrator. Don't. They need to make those choices.

    Starting September 2003, a new group called SAFE (Sexual Assault-Free Environment) focused on sexual assault prevention will be operating on campus. If you are interested in learning more about SAFE or in being a part of this initiative, contact the Wellness Centre for more information by calling ext. 53327 or at wellness@uoguelph.ca.

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