The Canadian criminal justice system continues to fail the many survivors of sexual assault. For survivors, the experience of seeking help from law enforcement and going to court often deepens their existing wounds and trauma. Despite increased attention, sexual assault conviction rates remain meagre: one in five reports of sexual assault are treated as baseless by police, which translates into less than 1% of sexual assaults resulting in a conviction. This compels victims to keep quiet and refrain from reporting and pressing charges. In the rare event that sexual assault cases enter the courts, victims are often treated as mere witnesses to the crime, while the Provincial Crown Prosecutor presses charges on their behalf. The failure of law enforcement and the justice system to meet the needs of sexual assault victims is complex, touching on policy issues that involve problems in measurement and evidence, changing cultural stigmas, and an rural/urban divide in report rates.
Amanda Dale is the Executive Director of the Barbra Schlifer Clinic, Canada’s only legal clinic that offers free legal, counselling, and interpreter services to those who identify as women and non-binary survivors of sexual violence. She is deeply devoted to changing the conditions that threaten women’s safety, dignity and equality. Her leadership was pivotal in the Jane Doe Audit of Toronto Police sexual assault investigations and the successful restriction of the use of religious arbitration in the settlement of family law matters in Ontario, amongst many other achievements.
Robyn Doolittle is an award winning author and journalist with Canadian national news publication, The Globe and Mail. She recently co-authored Unfounded: Will the Police Believe You?, a 20-month investigation into the variation in reported sexual assaults deemed “unfounded”—or not believed to be true—by law enforcement across Canada. Robyn’s #1 bestselling book on the troubled personal life of the late former – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, called Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, won her critical acclaim and took the inaugural Kobo Emerging Author prize for non-fiction. Robyn began her career at the Toronto Star, covering crime and later municipal politics.
Paula Maurutto is a Professor of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Toronto. Her current research explores legal innovations in Canadian specialized courts, with a particular focus on domestic violence, Aboriginal, mental health, community/wellness and drug courts in six jurisdictions across Canada.
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