May is Sexual Assault Prevention Month in Ontario

Sexual assault is one form of sexual violence. Sexual violence takes many forms and should not be dismissed or minimized. Sexual violence should not be tolerated and have clear consequences.

Sexual assault can have wide-ranging impacts on a person's mental, physical, and emotional health, and addressing it requires a community effort to create a safer and more supportive environment for everyone.

Find supportive resources and information below for preventing and responding to sexual violence.

Resources for educators, students, and parents:

Background Information and Educator Supports

  • Gender-Based Violence Prevention Educator Resources (Ophea): increases educators’ understanding of the issue, how to raise awareness, and how it can be prevented through early education and honest classroom discussions.
  • Gender-Based Violence Teaching Toolkit (University of Windsor): developed to support teachers in Grade 8-12 classrooms in Ontario, corresponding to the curriculum expectations for Health and Physical Education, Social Sciences, and English courses.
  • Youth and Relationship Violence (WECHU): Find links to resources and crisis lines. We encourage anyone who has experienced sexual violence to seek support. 

Ready-to-Use Materials for Awareness Raising

  • Healthy Schools Prom 2024 toolkit (WECHU): information on consent, the role of bystanders and how to make decisions to be safer.
  • Draw the Line Campaign (The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres): Interactive Ontario campaign that challenges sexual violence myths, shows how to spot signs of sexual violence, and teaches bystanders how to safely and effectively intervene.

Where to Get Help

  • Sexual Assault Crisis Centre of Essex County: has a 24-hour crisis line, counselling, peer support and resources.
  • Kids Help Phone: free, confidential 24/7 counselling and information services for young people across Canada.
  • OneStopTalk: free, confidential multi-session mental health counselling service for Ontario youth aged 17 and under, including referral to local services. Call 1 855 416 8255 or chat on their website Monday – Friday: 12-8pm, Saturday: 12-4pm (last calls taken 45 minutes before closing). English and French. Culturally diverse therapists. 
  • Support for Survivors Services: The Ending Violence Association of Canada lists various sexual assault support services in Ontario, including crisis lines for immediate help and centers for long-term aid.

Who is at risk of experiencing sexual assault?

Anyone can experience this type of violence, no matter their age, race, gender, or background. Sexual violence most often occurs between people who know each other. It can happen between family members, friends, classmates, co-workers, people in romantic relationships, or strangers. Women, girls, and gender-diverse people are at higher risk of experiencing sexual violence, as well as Indigenous women and other racialized minority groups.

What are some signs that someone is being sexually assaulted and needs help?

  • Behavioural Changes: Look for significant changes in behavior, like withdrawing from social interactions, sudden aggression, or fearfulness, which are often trauma responses following sexual assault.
  • Physical Signs: Be aware of any new, unexplained injuries, particularly those that the person is reluctant to explain, as these can be signs of a recent assault.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty sleeping, frequent nightmares, or other sleep disruptions can be indicative of trauma, often associated with sexual violence.
  • Avoidance Behavior: Pay attention if someone starts to avoid certain places, events, or individuals without a clear reason, as they may be trying to avoid a perpetrator, or triggers related to an assault.
  • Loss of Interest: A sudden disinterest in activities that one used to enjoy can signal depression or post-traumatic stress, which can occur after a traumatic event like sexual assault.

What are some ways to prevent sexual assault at the individual and community level? 

  • Raise Awareness about Consent: Educate yourself and others about what consent means, emphasizing that it must be informed, voluntary, and enthusiastically happy. Teach people that consent involves more than hearing a “yes” or “no” – pay attention to body language and other signs that tell you if someone is comfortable or not. 
  • Confront Harmful Behaviour: If you witness behavior that undermines consent or makes light of sexual assault, speak up. Bystanders have a role in setting social norms, and your voice can be powerful.
  • Support Survivors: Believe survivors when they come forward, and offer whatever assistance you can, whether it’s accompanying them to a hospital, helping them find counseling, or simply listening without judgment.
  • Communicate Your Boundaries: Encourage conversations about personal boundaries, respect, and consent in your school, work, and social circles. This can be in the form of workshops, seminars, or casual discussions.
  • Advocate for Change: Advocate for policies and programs that prevent sexual violence in places like schools, workplaces, and local government. This can include sexual harassment training, clear reporting procedures, and support services for survivors.