What is sexual consent within the meaning of the Act?

In Quebec, only 5% of sexual crimes are reported to the police. Why? Because of shame, guilt, confusion, inferiority, weakness or is it simply because the notion of sexual aggression is not understood?

At this stage, it is important to define sexual consent and the rules surrounding it. Here are some explanations.

What is sexual consent?

In the broad sense of the term, you might think that the definition is very easy. It is the simple act of saying “yes” or “no” to an action, a gesture or the realization of a project.

However, when talking about sexual consent, this definition is a little bit more complex. Naturally, in case of sexual interaction (kissing, touching, intimate relationships), partners must be consenting, voluntary and must act knowingly.

Considering that some factors may alter this decision, the law will apply. In fact, it is possible that a person doesn’t have his or her full capacity of reflection or is not mature enough to be objectively consenting, consequently, consent is questioned. In other terms, and in compliance with the Canadian laws, sexual consent is 16.

Moreover, consent is void if one of the partners is under the effect of drugs or alcohol, and in a semi-conscient state either more or less sleeping or acting under pressure, blackmail, emotional manipulation, intimidation, abuse of power or force.

Thus said, a decision can evolve with time, a person is free to change his or her mind and retract by saying no. One more thing, it is very important to know that silence is not a form of consent.

Sexual assault, Criminal Code and sanctions

According to Canadian laws, a sexual assault is determined when one of the persons is not consenting to this activity. The attacker will be judged in compliance with the Criminal Code.

From there, the sanctions will match the level of seriousness of the act. In fact, in Canada, sexual assaults are classified in categories dependent on the circumstances of the aggression. Therefore, section 271 deals with sexual assaults that have no impact on the victim’s physical condition or with no physical injuries. For such behavior, the attacker is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years if the complainant is under the age of 16 years or to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years if the complainant is over the age 16 years.

Sexual assault committed under the threat of a weapon are determined by section 272 of the Criminal Code. For such behavior, the compliant is liable to imprisonment for a term of 5 to 14 years depending on the profile of the attacker. Finally, section 273 deals with the aggravated sexual assaults, meaning that the victim has severe injuries, the compliant is liable to imprisonment for a term of 5 years to life.

It is important to assert your rights, as such, Mrs. Martine Thibodeau, criminal lawyer with 25 years of experience, can guide you through this long legal process, from the appearance to the trial.

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