What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is an unwanted touching of a sexual nature. It is an act in which a person sexually touches another person without their consent. The offence requires that there was an assault and it was of a sexual nature or purpose. The assault element requires intentional touching. The sexual nature or purpose element is defined by the act and the surrounding circumstances. Circumstances include the part of the body touched, nature of the contact, the situation in which it occurred and words spoken or gestures made.
Sexual assault can be committed in three ways: non-consensual touching, threats by words or gesture and accosting a person while openly carrying a weapon. The most common form of sexual assault prosecuted is by non-consensual touching.
There are three offences of sexual assault in the Criminal Code:
- Section 271– Sexual Assault;
- Section 272 – Sexual Assault with a Weapon, Threats to a Third-Party or Causing Bodily Harm.
- Section 273 – Aggravated Sexual Assault
The offence under section 272 can occur in the following ways:
- Carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation of a weapon;
- Threatens to cause bodily harm to a person other than the complainant;
- Causes bodily harm to the complainant; or
- Is a party to the offence with any other person
Aggravated sexual assault occurs when an accused, in committing a sexual assault, wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.
For the Crown Prosecutor to prove sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt (when it involves touching which is the most common form), they must prove:
- The touching;
- The touching was of a sexual nature; and
- The complainant did not consent to the touching