Sexual violence

Sexual violence: some definitions

The concept of sexual violence as used in the government’s strategic plan to counter sexual and domestic violence and rebuild confidence, Stratégie gouvernementale intégrée pour contrer la violence sexuelle, la violence conjugale et Rebâtir la confiance 2022-2027 (in French only), refers in particular to the issues of sexual assault, sexual exploitation and sexual harassment, including their various manifestations. Anchored in a dynamic of power relations, exposing victims to multiple after-effects and infringing fundamental rights, they have several points in common.

Sexual assault

Sexual assault is an act of a sexual nature, with or without physical contact, committed by a person without the consent of the other person concerned or, in some cases – particularly in the case of children – through emotional manipulation or blackmail. It is an act aimed at subjugating another person to the will of the aggressor through an abuse of power with the use of force or coercion, or under implicit or explicit threat. Sexual assault is a violation of fundamental rights, including physical and psychological integrity, as well as personal safety. 

This definition applies no matter the age, sex, culture, religion or gender identity of the victim or the aggressor, regardless of the type of sexual act and the location or environment in which it occurred, and whatever the nature of the existing association between the victim and the aggressor.


Sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation is a complex issue, especially because of the various contexts in which it can occur (prostitution, erotic massage parlour, nude dance bar, etc.) and the criminal activities that can be associated with it (pimping, trafficking people for purposes of sexual exploitation, purchase of sexual services, etc.) Across its various manifestations, sexual exploitation generally involves a situation, a context, or a relationship where someone profits from the condition of vulnerability or addiction of someone else, or from a power imbalance, with the goal of the sexual use of this person’s body to gain an advantage. This can be a monetary, social or personal benefit, such as sexual gratification, or any other form of profit-taking. Victims of sexual exploitation include victims of trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is offensive behaviour manifested by words, gestures or acts of a sexual nature that are repeated, hostile or unwanted, that violate the person's dignity or integrity and that makes their environment harmful to them. A single serious incident of this conduct can also be considered harassment if it has lasting effects on the person.

It can take the form of non-verbal behaviour, such as staring or whistling, or words, like sexist or dirty jokes, questions about a person’s intimate life, unwanted advances, threats, etc. Sexual harassment can also be physical, in the form of fondling, touching or other gestures of a sexual nature.

CISSS des Laurentides resource person

William Provost, S.W.

Planning, programming and research agent
Sexual violence regional resource person
Direction des programmes Santé mentale, dépendance et services psychosociaux généraux adulte