Sexual offences involve a large range of offences and thus the nature of these crimes means that victims may experience physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual impacts unique among crime victims. The WHO describes sexual offences as: “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, or other act directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting”. Although sexual violence can be experienced by varying populations in Canada, there are specific groups in society that are at higher risk of being victims of sexual offences. Sexual violence thus exists on a continuum from obscene name-calling to rape and homicide, and includes on-line forms of sexual violence and sexual exploitation.
Sexual offences data suffer from severe underreporting; these crimes are less likely to be reported to police than both assault and robbery, and overall it is estimated that approximately only one in ten incidents are reported to police. This lack of reporting is noticeable in specific cost items like police costs and court costs, where the true extent of the impacts of sexual offences is hidden, and other crimes may therefore seem comparatively more serious.