Outlining Legal Options For Survivors of Sexual Violence

January 28, 2022

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On January 19th, 2022, Beckett lawyers, Anju Fujioka and Chelsea Hishon, along with Assistant Deputy Crown Attorney Jeremy Carnegie, presented on “Law and Gender Based Violence in Practice” as part of Western Law’s Gender Based Violence Education Series. The presentation focused on outlining legal options for survivors of sexual violence and existing tools and protections to make the legal process safer for survivors.

In the criminal justice system, various safeguards exist to accommodate the unique needs and vulnerabilities of survivors. Some protections include:

  • - using technology to ensure that a complainant (victim) does not have to testify in front of the accused (perpetrator);
  • - granting publication bans at the outset of any criminal proceeding to protect the identity of a complainant;
  • - ensuring that the complainant’s interests are represented by a separate lawyer if the accused applies for permission to have prior sexual history or personal records of the complainant admitted as evidence;
  • - and providing access to the Victim Witness Assistance Program (VWAP), which supports survivors from beginning to end of the criminal process.

There are many ways in which the civil process tries to protect survivors as well. In the civil context:

  • - the plaintiff (victim/survivor) can also apply for a publication ban to protect their identity;
  • - the plaintiff rarely has to go to trial, since more than 90% of cases settle out of court;
  • - the plaintiff has their own lawyer who protects their interests and can connect them to necessary supports throughout the process.

Fear, lack of knowledge, and uncertainty can be barriers to survivors who are contemplating reporting to the police or starting a lawsuit. Speaking with a lawyer who is knowledgeable about these processes and the needs of survivors can help to address any concerns and help a victim make an informed decision about how they want to proceed.

Published on January 28, 2022

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