Sexual assault and abuse leaves long-lasting scars. Often the abuse is perpetrated by someone close–someone trusted–someone in a position that seems to have authority or control.
As your advocates we will guide you through a sometimes confusing and intimidating legal process to give you resolution.
Canada’s Criminal Code has no specific “rape” provision. Instead, it defines assault and provides for a specific punishment for “sexual assault.” In defining “assault,” the Code includes physical contact and threats.
265. (1) A person commits an assault when
(a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;
(b) he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or
(c) while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.
(2) This section applies to all forms of assault, including sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm and aggravated sexual assault.
There was a time when the sexual history of a victim could be extensively introduced and elaborated on during preliminary inquiries and trials. This was a common intimidation tactic to discourage victims from testifying. It was also used to suggest that a victim’s “promiscuous” past or previous consent to sex with the accused would tend to indicate that she may have consented during the assault in question.
Parliament reacted to this by changing the criminal code, forbidding testimony of prior sexual activity except under very specific circumstances. This change to the criminal code is commonly referred to as the “rape shield” law.
This provision within the Criminal Code reads:
276. (1) In proceedings in respect of an offence under section 151, 152, 153, 153.1, 155 or 159, subsection 160
(2) or (3) or section 170, 171, 172, 173, 271, 272 or 273, evidence that the complainant has engaged in sexual activity, whether with the accused or with any other person, is not admissible to support an inference that, by reason of the sexual nature of that activity, the complainant
(a) is more likely to have consented to the sexual activity that forms the subject-matter of the charge; or
(b) is less worthy of belief
The Code also contains an exception to this rule, which is quite narrow in scope. Evidence of prior sexual behaviour -may- be allowed in if it meets three key criteria:
(a) is of specific instances of sexual activity;
(b) is relevant to an issue at trial; and
(c) has significant probative value that is not substantially outweighed by the danger of prejudice to the proper administration of justice.
Sexual assault is not merely a criminal matter. Sexual abuse causes long-lasting physical and emotional damage. Your quality of life suffers, your education and work are compromised, your relationships are negatively impacted, and you’re likely to need long-term counseling and therapy to heal. As such, survivors are entitled to compensation–and the process of obtaining that compensation, when handled with skill and sensitivity, can provide you with vindication, accountability, closure and assist you in the process of reclaiming your life.
Where this compensation comes from depends a great deal on the circumstances of the assault. If it was within your family, or committed by an individual who did not have authority conferred by an employer or organization, survivors will likely need to make a claim against their assailants directly. If your assailant was an authority figure in the workplace, your faith community, or another institution, the organization that placed them in a position to assault you may also be held liable.
Gaining this compensation can be particularly difficult. Unlike cases of “accidental” personal injury, sexual abuse or assault cases require you to confront those who have caused you harm–and who may seek to discredit and victimize you again during the course of legal proceedings.
This is why it is vital for survivors of sexual abuse and assault to have a strong legal advocate–someone who can represent you, speak for you, listen to you, and provide the emotional and moral support you need to speak for yourself.
The best way to hold the responsible party accountable and gain the compensation you’re due is to contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.
A well-qualified sexual assault, abuse, and personal injury lawyer can determine where you need to go for compensation, provide the representation and protection you need throughout the process, ensure that a settlement offer is reasonable and fair, and if it becomes necessary, represent you at trial to get the justice you and your loved ones deserve.
Upon suffering a physical or sexual assault, there are a number of steps survivors should take as soon as possible:
If you or a loved one has suffered a sexual assault or an incident of abuse, Lerners Personal Injury Lawyers can help in a variety of important ways. Our caring and qualified lawyers have a wealth of successful trial experience and a proven track record of helping survivors of physical and sexual assault. We know how to handle cases ranging from sexual abuse in the family to institutional abuse.
But more than our record of achievement in delivering legal justice and compensation, we have the compassion and understanding to help you reclaim and rebuild your life, even in the most difficult of situations.
We are here to listen and help. We are here to be your voice. We are here to ease the burden of your suffering and ensure that those responsible are held to account.