Alarming new study shows 55% of Canadians don't understand sexual consent

Nov 22 2022, 6:51 pm

A new study about Canadians and sexual consent has yielded some worrisome results.

Held by Maru/Matchbox for the Canadian Women’s Foundation, the study reveals that over half of Canadians — 55%, to be exact — do not really understand the idea of consent around sexual activity.

A randomly selected sample of 1,511 Canadians was asked questions about sexual consent between October 17 and 19. The results were weighted to be nationally representative.

The standard to measure was the legal definition of sexual consent in the country.

“According to Canadian law, consent should be both positive (e.g., saying yes, initiating, enthusiastic participation) and ongoing (e.g., continues during the sexual activity),” states the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “Only 45% of survey respondents said they would need both indicators from another person to ensure sexual activity is consensual.”

Paulette Senior, president and CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, says that this gap can lead to assault, and certainly connects to our historical tendency to blame abuse survivors for what they go through. “It’s a sign that Canada desperately needs to invest in consent education and effective abuse prevention measures relevant to all age groups,” she notes.

Results of this study also show that people aged 54 and under understood “positive and ongoing consent” better than those over 55.

Though the results are shocking and concerning, they do show growth.

In 2015, when awareness of consent was last measured, only 33% of Canadians appeared to understand what it means during sexual interaction.

Statistics Canada reports that 4.7 million women and girls over the age of 15 have experienced sexual assault outside of an intimate relationship. Indigenous women, 2SLGBTQIA+ people, women with disabilities, and younger women are particularly at risk.

Nearly half of Canadians (42%) know a woman who has been sexually assaulted.

“So many women, girls, and Two-Spirit, trans, and non-binary people face this abuse in their lifetime. There are real people behind the numbers, people we know and care about in our own families, workplaces, and communities,” says Senior.

“The trauma they face can reverberate across every aspect of their lives. We all need to be better prepared to support survivors without judgement and stigma because they often reach out to people they trust. And we need to hold our leaders accountable to take every step they can to end this abuse before it starts in the first place.”

If you want to contribute to gender-based violence prevention and intervention programs across the country, you can donate to the Canadians Women’s Foundation here. The organization’s programs also offer support to survivors and coach teenagers on healthy relationships.

This donation drive is only open until the end of this year.

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