Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is not the survivor’s fault. The only person responsible for a sexual assault is the person who commits the crime.

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is any act of a sexual nature performed without the consent of the other person(s). This may include physical violence, from unwanted kissing and touching to forced sexual intercourse and/or oral sex. This may also include psychological violence, verbal abuse, manipulation and coercion.

While sexual harassment may be understood as a form of sexual assault, it is dealt with separately from acts of sexual assault under the policies and procedures in place at McGill University. For more information, visit the Reporting an Incident page.

There are many misconceptions about sexual assault. Sexual assault is not about love or lust; it is about one person exerting power and control over another. Force does not need to be physical and rarely is. Coercion, a method used to manipulate someone into having sexual contact or sex against their will, can be exerted by one person over another in the form of threats, humiliation, intimidation, tricks, emotional blackmail, or pressure from someone in a position of trust (friend, peer), power and authority. Sexual assault is a criminal offence in Canada under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Sexual assault can affect anyone. It can happen within marriage, common-law, dating or acquaintance relationships, or be perpetrated by an unknown person. Individuals who have experienced acquaintance sexual assault may find it difficult to define their experience as sexual assault, or disclose what happened to them, due to the nature of their relationship with the perpetrator.

If you think that you may have been sexually assaulted, visit the For Survivors page. Know that there are many people available to you who are dedicated to providing support at McGill and throughout the Montreal community.

Drugs and Sexual Assault

On college and university campuses, drug-facilitated sexual assault is exceedingly common, with alcohol used to facilitate up to 90% of reported cases of sexual assault.* Alcohol (and other drugs) can be used by perpetrators of sexual assault in two ways:

  1. By providing alcohol to someone with the intention of making them vulnerable
  2. By targeting someone who is already vulnerable due to intoxication

The Criminal Code of Canada states that a person who is incapacitated by drugs and/or alcohol cannot legally consent to sexual activity. When engaging in sexual activity you are responsible for ensuring that the person you are engaging with is not affected by alcohol and/or drugs, and is able to give consent freely every step of the way. This also includes determining whether you (as the initiator) are able to give consent. Your own intoxication cannot be used as a defence against failing to get consent.

*Fisher, B., Cullen, Francis T. & Turner, Michael G. (2000). The Sexual Victimization of College Women. Washington: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Reporting Sexual Assault at McGill

  • For students, acts of sexual assault are covered by McGill's Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures. Allegations of breaches of the code are handled by Disciplinary Officers, res.life [at] mcgill.ca (Residences) (for students living in residences) and/or the Committee on Student Discipline.  If you have a concern that you would like to discuss, or a report that you would like to file, you may contact the Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education for assistance with navigating the reporting process and filing a complaint.
  • For McGill employees or faculty members, acts of sexual assault are handled by their respective Human Resource department. You may contact your Human Resource Advisor or Union Representative directly or the Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education for assistance with navigating the reporting process and filing a complaint.

To learn more about how to report at McGill, visit the Reporting Sexual Assault page.