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  • About one in ten sexual assaults is reported to police, according to the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization. With only a small proportion of sexual offences formally documented through law enforcement, the prevalence of sexual assault in Canada has been difficult to quantify.

  • According to the 2004 GSS, there were about 512,000 incidents of sexual assault, representing a rate of 1,977 incidents per 100,000 population aged 15 and older. Given that most sexual assaults go unreported, police-reported sexual assault counts are notably lower, with about 24,200 sexual offences recorded by police in 2007.

  • Victimization data suggest that the rates of sexual assault remained stable in recent years. However, police-reported data reveal a steady decline in offences coming to the attention of law enforcement for more than a decade.

  • The majority of sexual offences in Canada are of a less severe nature. Victimization data indicate that most sexual assaults involved unwanted sexual touching (81%) rather than more severe sexual attacks (19%). Among the incidents that came to the attention of police in 2007, the large majority (86%) were level 1, the least serious form of sexual assault.

  • The 2004 GSS showed that sexual victimization rates were dramatically higher among those aged 15 to 24, compared to those 55 and over. Additionally, over half of the sexual assault victims reported to police in 2007 were children and youth under the age of 18.

  • When asked why they did not tell the police about the sexual assault, a majority of victims (58%) said that they did not report the incident because it was not important enough.

  • While few sexual assault victims filed formal reports with police, most (72%) confided in friends and many turned to family (41%) and other informal sources of support.

  • Similar to victims of other forms of violent crime, sexual assault victims commonly experienced anger, confusion and frustration as a result of their victimization.