The number of annual self-reported sexual assault cases in Canada is 635,000, according to the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians’ Safety. The majority of sexual assault cases reported to the police are made by women.
Considering the fact that only a fraction of those sexually assaulted report to the police, then the problem of sexual abuse takes a rather ominous dimension. According to some statistics, due to the stigma and shame associated with sexual abuse, only one in every six women and one in 33 men report being sexually assaulted.
The following frequently asked questions may perhaps indicate why this is the case in regards to reporting sexual assault cases.
1. What Constitutes Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is a criminal offence described in Section 271-273 of Canada’s Criminal Code. It is an act of a sexual nature that violates a person’s sexual integrity. To sustain a sexual assault charge, a complainant must demonstrate that the said act was committed without their consent.
2. What Penalties Does Sexual Assault Attract?
The Crown has the discretionary mandate of determining the extent and nature of punishment to be meted out to a sexual assault offender. However, the gravity and the nature of the offence are major determinants of the severity of penalties handed out to an offender. For instance, a sexual assault that involves a weapon or which threatens the other party attracts a higher penalty.
3. What Does Aggravated Sexual Assault Mean?
Aggravated sexual assault is one of the most serious sexual crimes and attracts the highest possible penalty upon securing a conviction. It involves, besides sexually assaulting a victim, wounding, maiming, disfiguring, or endangering the life of a victim.
4. Can I Keep the Charges Private?
Yes. If you don’t want your spouse or family to know about the charges, you are protected under the client-solicitor confidentiality. However, court proceedings are matters of public interest and you may not be in a position to prevent information about the case from finding its way to your family.
Many victims fear the details of the case coming out for all to hear. However, a professional firm will attempt to minimize the exposure of your charges.
5. What Is Consent?
Consent in a sexual assault is defined in Section 273.1 of the Criminal Code as the “voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question.” Proving the presence or absence of consent is difficult. This is because consent must be clear and unequivocal.
6. What Is the Age of Consent?
Minors aged below 16 years are considered to be under the age of consent. In Canada, one has to be at least 16 years to be able to consent to a sexual act. A person under this age is deemed to be incapable of consenting to a sexual act. Therefore, engaging in relations with anyone under the age of consent is considered a criminal offence.
7. What Do I Do If I Am Sexually Assaulted?
Many don’t report an assault because they do not know the process involved. The first thing you need to do is to make sure you are safe. If you can, contact a close friend, police, or a crisis service as quickly as possible. You will also need to preserve all the evidence of the assault. For instance, do not bathe or clean up since every possible piece of evidence will be required to uphold a conviction against the offender. You should also seek medical attention as soon as possible.
The most important thing to remember about any case of sexual assault is that it’s never the victim’s fault. In the unfortunate event that one is sexually assaulted, remaining calm and keeping evidence of the assault intact, reporting to the police, consulting a sexual harassment lawyer and going for a medical check-up will increase the likelihood of the offender being apprehended and convicted.