What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is an act that is sexual in nature, with or without physical contact, committed by an individual without the consent of the victim, or in some cases, through emotional manipulation or blackmail, especially when children are involved. It is an act that subjects another person to the perpetrator’s desires through an abuse of power and/or the use of force or coercion, accompanied by implicit or explicit threats. Sexual assault is an attack on a person’s basic rights, particularly their rights to physical and psychological integrity and to personal security.

This definition applies regardless of the:

  • Age, sex, culture, origin, marital status, religion or sexual orientation of the perpetrator or the victim
  • Type of sexual act
  • Place or living environment in which the act occurred
  • Relationship between the perpetrator and the victim

We are referring to sexual assault when we use other expressions like:

  • Sexual abuse, sexual offence, sexual contact, incest, child prostitution and pornography, rape

It is completely unacceptable — and illegal!

Sexual assault is unacceptable, regardless of the form it takes, the acts involved, the situation, the relationship between the perpetrator and victim, or the circumstances.

  • All acts or forms of sexual contact are illegal.
  • And all acts or forms of sexual contact with people under the age of 16 are considered to occur "without consent" and are thus illegal. *


* Criminal Code provides an exception for persons of 14 or 15 years of age. A person of this age may give their consent as long as their partner is:

  • Not more than five years older
  • Not in a situation of trust or authority towards the youth
  • Not a person with whom the youth is in a relationship of dependency
  • Not in a relationship with the youth that is exploitative of the youth

Twelve- and thirteen-year-olds may consent if their partner is less than two years older than they are and the preceding conditions are met.

© Government of Québec, 2010  •  Links and references  •  Confidentiality Policy  •  Accessibiliy