Being charged with sexual assault or other sex crimes can severely damage a person’s reputation. Society and the Criminal Code of Canada regard criminal sexual offences as very serious crimes, which should never be taken lightly.

In Canada, one of the more common sex crimes is sexual assault. It is an assault against another involving circumstances of a sexual nature without their consent. It is one of the more serious assault offences since not only is the victim sexually violated, but also there is some force or threat of force used against them, which they did not consent to either. In order to determine whether a person should be charged with sexual assault the police and Crown will look at several elements and evidence in the case, such as

  • The part of the body that was touched.
  • How the body was touched and nature of the contact.
  • The situation in which the victim was assaulted.
  • Any gestures or words used in conjunction with the act.
  • Any other relevant circumstances relating to the act.

It is important to note in order to be charged with sexual assault, one does not have to physically engage in sexual intercourse with the other person. You can be charged for this crime if you used your hands or other parts of your body, as well as objects in a sexual manner where the victim did not consent to the act. The police and Crown will consider and weigh everything which occurred, as well as the motives of the accused person in determining whether there are grounds for filing sexual assault charges against the accused.

Sexual Assault as Defined by the Criminal Code of Canada

The criminal offences of assault and sexual assault are defined in Section 265 of the Criminal Code of Canada. The crimes are summarized below, as follows:

1. Assault is committed when:

  • Without the consent of another person, the accused intentionally applies force, either directly or indirectly, against the individual.
  • The accused threatens or attempts to apply force to the victim, by act or gesture. The accused has, or causes the victim to believe, on reasonable grounds that the accused presently has the ability to affect their purpose.
  • Or, while openly carrying or wearing a weapon or imitation weapon, the accused accosts or impedes the victim or begs.

2. This section of the Criminal Code of Canada applies to all forms of assault, including sexual assault with a weapon, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, and sexual assault causing bodily harm, as well as threats to cause bodily harm while committing sexual assault.

  • The accused obtained, where the victim submitted or did not resist, by reason of the application of force to them, or to a person other than the victim.
  • There were threats of force or the fear that force was going to be used either against the victim or to another person.
  • The accused fraudulently misled the victim.
  • Or the accused exercised their authority over the victim.

3. Where the accused alleges they believed the victim consented to the act, as related to the criminal assault offence, a judge, if satisfied there is sufficient evidence to bring charges, and if the defence could be believed by the jury, the judge can instruct the jury when reviewing the evidence in the case, relating to the determination of the honesty of the accused statement and belief of consent, to either consider the absence or presence of reasonable grounds for that belief.

Sentences and Punishments for Sexual Assault

The severity of being found guilty of sexual assault can drastically impact a person’s life. All persons found guilty of sexual assault, as well as other criminal sexual offences, are required by law to be placed on the national and provincial sex offender’s registry and be subject to supervision by the police indefinitely. In addition, being on the registry can impact the ability to find and maintain employment, could have travel restriction, and could have restrictions on where a person may reside.

Besides the stigma of being on the sex offender’s registry, being convicted of sexual assault has other sentencing guidelines and penalties. These penalties are determined by how the Crown decides to proceed with the case, either by summary conviction or indictment. As a result, there is potential imprisonment periods for sexual assault ranging from a maximum of eighteen months to ten years. How the Crown chooses to proceed in filing charges is entirely at their discretion. The Crown considers each case on its own facts to assess how to prosecute the case and what punishments the judge could impose during sentencing.