Was I sexually assaulted?
In order to determine if a person was assaulted, first there needs to be an understanding of what ‘consent’ is. Consent, in the context of sexual assault, is when someone agrees, gives permission, or says "yes" to sexual activity with another.
There are three main considerations determining whether a sexual act is consensual or a crime. “Consensual” means that both people are:
- Old enough to consent,
- Have the capacity to consent, and
- Agreed to the sexual contact.
Are the participants old enough to consent?
“Age of consent,” which is the minimum age someone must be to have consensual sex. In Bermuda the minimum age for consent is 16 (sixteen). People below this age are considered children and cannot legally agree to have sex. In other words, even if the child or teenager says yes, the law says no.
Did both participants have the capacity to consent?
Bermuda also defines who has the mental and legal capacity to consent. Those with diminished capacity — for example, some people with disabilities, some elderly people, and people who have been drugged, are under the influence of alcohol or are unconscious — may not have the legal ability to agree to have sex.
Did all participants agree to take part?
Did someone use physical force to make you have sexual contact with them? Has someone threatened you to make you have intercourse with them? If so, it is sexual assault.
It doesn’t matter if your partner thinks you meant yes, or if you’ve already started having sex — “No” also means “Stop.” If your partner proceeds despite your expressed instruction to stop, they have not only violated basic codes of morality and decency, they have also committed a crime.
I didn’t resist physically — does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
People respond to an assault in diverse ways. Just because you didn’t resist physically doesn’t mean it wasn’t sexual assault — in fact, many victims make the conscious decision that physical resistance would cause the perpetrator to become more violent. Lack of consent can be expressed (saying “no”) or it can be implied from the circumstances (for example, if you were under the statutory age of consent, if you were temporarily incapacitated, or if you were afraid to object because the perpetrator threatened to harm you or a loved one).
I used to date the person who assaulted me — does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
sexual assault can occur when the offender and the victim have a pre-existing relationship (sometimes called “date sexual assault” or “acquaintance sexual assault”), or even when the offender is a victim’s spouse. It does not matter whether the other person is an ex-lover or a complete stranger, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex in the past.
I don’t remember the assault — does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
Just because you don’t remember being assaulted doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen and that it wasn’t sexual assault. Memory loss can result from the ingestion of GHB and other “sexual assault drugs,” and from excessive alcohol consumption.
I was asleep or unconscious when it happened — does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
If you were asleep or unconscious, then you didn’t give consent.
I was drunk or the perpetrator was drunk — does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse — or an alibi. The key question is still: did you consent or not? Regardless of whether you were drunk or sober, if the sex is non-consensual, it is sexual assault. If you were unconscious due to drugs or alcohol consumption, that means you were unable to give consent.
I thought “no,” but didn’t say it — does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
If you didn’t say “no” because you were legitimately scared for your life or safety, then it is sexual assault. Sometimes it isn’t safe to resist, physically or verbally. If you were under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and were physically unable to say “no”, then it is sexual assault.
If you have been sexually assaulted, and require assistance, please contact 911for immediate emergency assistance, or Centre Against Abuse 297-8278 for an appointment with a counsellor.