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Sexual assault remains a rampant crime and issue amidst the strict implementation of laws and regulations all over the world. The unwanted and explicit words and gestures persisted regardless of the time and place. Workplaces have never been an exemption, given that a growing number of men, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community have reported similar cases. Despite the consistent campaigns and guidelines against sexual assault and harassment at work, many offenders go unpunished. Meanwhile, many people who see it either as a funny or normal thing seem to encourage it. Given the trauma that victims continue to experience, sexual assault is a pressing issue many agencies must combat. 

Sexual Assault at Work

Sexual Assault at Work

Workplace sexual assault is one of the most common forms of gender-based discrimination. It happens when a colleague, supervisor, manager, client, and even a non-employee in an office makes disrespectful comments and gestures towards a reasonable person. The conduct must always be unwanted or unwelcome before considering it as one. To be more specific, it can manifest in different ways, such as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, explicit jokes, and messages, and the like. Although it remains pervasive, these are some points that people have to know once they experience it. 

  • Sexual assault can affect a man or woman.
  • Sexual assault can occur between people of the same sex or different sexes.
  • Sexual assault can be actions, verbal communications, or written communications.
  • Sexism is also sexual assault.
  • A sexually explicit cartoon, video, or joke can be sexual assault.
  • Sexual assault can occur within the workplace or outside the workplace at a work event or function.
  • Sexual assault can include gender-based terms and offensive, such as “Hun,” “Honey,” “Sweetheart,” “Babe,” “Baby,” etc.
  • Sexual assault can occur between people who were once in a relationship.
  • Sexual assault can occur even if a person consents to the behavior or acts similarly if they feel the need to “go along to get along.”
  • A criminal sexual act in the workplace is also grounds for a sexual assault claim.

Generally, people spend about 30% of their lives working with or for people with different backgrounds and personalities, and the stress seems inevitable at times. About 2 million people report cases of workplace violence every year, with sexual assault occupying a significant portion. In a 2019 study posted on What To Become and Legal Jobs, it was found that 80% of the victims are women. It was also found that the reported figures were relatively lower as 63% of women and 74% of men kept the incidents to themselves. The story does not end here as 14% of women, and 6% of men who have experienced assaults and harassment changed their careers to avoid humiliation and forget it. Meanwhile, studies posted on NSVRC presented higher figures. The common thing in the three articles was that about 70% of people who saw or at least heard of it did not seem to take this matter seriously, which seemed to rub salt into the wound. 

Penalties for Sexual Assault

A growing number of incidents remain unreported and unpunished, which  seems to increase the guts of the offenders. Despite this, both victims and offenders must become more aware of the penalties associated with these inappropriate and offensive acts. 

  • If proven, the accused will be convicted. The sentencing depends on the intensity and seriousness of the accused’s criminal history. The Crown Prosecutor may decide whether the conviction is summary or indictable. The Code specifies the following sentences or punishments for sexual assault:
    • 271. (1) Everyone who commits a sexual assault is guilty of
      • (a) an indictable offense and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years; or
      • (b) an offense punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months.
  • Although the sentences mentioned above are considered maximums, note that an assailant can receive lesser penalties than the prescribed ones. See our sentencing table for information on real sentences given to assailants based on prior records and circumstances.
  • A stricter penalty is possible in cases of aggravated sexual assault.  
  • Meanwhile, once the accused is proven guilty, the punishment is usually suspension to termination on a company-level basis.

Aggravated Sexual Assault

  • The Criminal Code also allows for increased penalties for sexual assault when the offender or accused puts the complainant’s life in danger to further protect the victims’ rights.
    • 273. (1) Everyone commits an aggravated sexual assault  who, in committing a sexual assault, wounds, maims, disfigures, or endangers the complainant’s life.
    • (2) Every person who commits an aggravated sexual assault is guilty of an indictable offense and liable
      • (a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offense, to imprisonment for life and minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and
      • (b) in any other case, to imprisonment for life.

Note that a conviction will result in an automatic sentence of at least four years where a gun is used.

Evidence in Sexual Assault Trials


  • When a sexual assault involves children, witness testimonies mainly comprise the set of evidence. It should include the victim, the offender or accused, any other related people such as accessories, participants, and witnesses. For this instance, the accused may or may not stand and testify under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms since it is included in his rights. 
  • Suppose a medico-legal report shows physical/medical evidence (trauma, collection of bodily fluids, etc.). In that case, experts may act as witnesses and attest to it.

Physical Evidence

  • Bodily fluids and other DNA-producing evidence may be used as proof of the accused’s identity. Moreover, it can verify whether a sexual act happened or not. Its use and purpose are dependent on the issue of the trial. Where the victim and the accused agree that sexual acts took place and only dispute whether there was consent, proving that a sexual act took place is less important.

 Video and Photographic Evidence

  • Although its use remains rare, its popularity and importance have increased over time. There are cases wherein videos taken by the accused (generally on unconscious victims) were used against them and proved their guilt. 

Get Help from Diamond & Diamond Law!

  • Are you a victim of sexual assault at work? Contact Diamond & Diamond Law today to get a FREE case evaluation!
  • If you know a victim of sexual assault at work but is afraid or ashamed to speak out, feel free to reach out to Diamond & Diamond Law and help them get assistance. 
  • We can guarantee your protection from threats and intimidations by your offenders. 
  • We can help you get the compensation you deserve! Call us at 1-800-567-HURT to talk to one of our trusted lawyers.
  • You can also check out our other practice areas here to know more about the cases we handle.

Pro Tip

“If you suspect that one of your coworkers is being sexually assaulted at work, talk to them and help them report the crime to authorities.”

FAQs About Work Sexual Assault

This law prohibits the presentation of evidence and cross-examination complainants about their previous sexual behavior. It also protects the victim’s or complainant’s identity.

Sexual assault is a broader term. It usually violates civil laws and includes unwanted verbal and physical sexual attention, such as catcalling. On the other hand, sexual assault violates criminal laws regarding sexual contact or behavior without the victim’s consent, such as attempted rape.

No, sexual assault can take place anywhere. Any person, regardless of his age and gender, can experience it. There are cases of sexual assault in schools, public transportation, and even inside the house.

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