Frequently Asked Questions

This is our FAQ. If you have any questions please let us know.

General

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Many women are the victims of violence from their husbands or boyfriends. We know that “54% of women living with men will be struck at some time during the relationship by their partners” (CIDA). We also know that “60% of rapes, battering, and sexual assaults, take place in the home, the place women are supposed to be most safe” (Vancouver Rape Relief). This means that there are many men who use violence and it is impossible for anyone to determine which man might be violent and which man might not be violent. Each man makes this decision for himself with each encounter he has with women in his life and it is not your fault if your boyfriend or husband uses violence against you.

Violence that men use when they are in a relationship with a woman can be physical, verbal, or sexual. The following are common examples of how men use sexist violence:

  • He doesn’t want you to see friends or family or gets mad at you when you do
  • He doesn’t want you to try new activities such as, joining a women’s group, taking a new class, or getting a job.
  • He tells you how much money you can spend, or what you can spend money on.
  • He tells you what to wear, what to eat, when you can talk or how to organize your day.
  • He gets jealous and mad if you go anywhere, for example to the store, or out with friends.
  • He gets jealous and mad if you mention speaking to other men, friends, co-workers, your friend’s husband.
  • He calls you names; fat, stupid, ugly, bitch, or tells you you’re not good enough.
  • He threatens you, yells at you, swears at you.
  • He uses physical violence such as; punching, slapping, pushing, pinching, kicking, spitting, not letting you leave the house, a room, or the car.
  • He punches walls, or destroys other property.
  • He uses sexual abuse or rape- forcing you to have sex when you don’t feel like it, withholding money or favors until he gets sex.
  • He forced or pressured you into sexual acts that you’re uncomfortable with.

If your husband or boyfriend is doing any of these behaviors with you, you can call us or another feminist rape crisis center to talk to about what to do. We are available for you to talk to on our crisis line 24 hours a day. We are completely confidential and we have a transition house for women and their children who are escaping violence.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Sexual assault includes unwanted vaginal, anal or oral penetration, groping/touching your body and forced kissing. There are a lot of other names used to describe sexual assault including: date or acquaintance rape, marital rape, incest and gang rape. Sexual harassment often includes some form of sexual assault. The vast majority of attacks are done by heterosexual men on women. No matter what it is called, sexual assault is an abuse of power in which men force women into violent situations against our will. It is an attempt to control women and to deny our right to control our own bodies.

Many women experience sexual assault during our lives. One woman in four will be raped sometime in her life. The attack will most often be by someone she knows (Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres). One in eight girls is sexually assaulted before the age of 18, most often by a male family member (Vancouver United Way).

If you are considering using the police, you can get support and further information by calling an independent feminist rape crisis centre. If you decide not to use the police that's okay too, the majority of women who have suffered a sexual assault choose not to use the police. We will respect your decisions and maintain your confidentiality.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault Law

from the Criminal Code
October 2000

271. (1) Every one who commits a sexual assault is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months.
(2) [Repealed, R.S., 1985, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 10]
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 271; R.S., 1985, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 10; 1994, c. 44, s. 19.

Sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm

272. (1) Every person commits an offence who, in committing a sexual assault,
(a) carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation of a weapon;
(b) threatens to cause bodily harm to a person other than the complainant;
(c) causes bodily harm to the complainant; or
(d) is a party to the offence with any other person.

Punishment

(2) Every person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and
(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 272; 1995, c. 39, s. 145.

Aggravated sexual assault

273. (1) Every one commits an aggravated sexual assault who, in committing a sexual assault, wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.

Aggravated sexual assault

(2) Every person who commits an aggravated sexual assault is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and
(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for life.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Consent must be clearly given every time people engage in sexual contact.

A woman has the legal right to change her mind about having sex at any point of sexual contact. If her partner does not stop at the time she changes her mind, this is sexual assault.

In 1992 a new law was passed that defines "consent" as voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity with someone. It is popularly known as the "NO MEANS NO" law.

Importantly, the law recognizes that there are certain situations that make giving true voluntary agreement questionable. Such situations include if the person wanting sex with you is in a position of trust or in a position of power or authority over you. For example, teachers or bosses have this sort of position, since they have a say over what grade you get, or if you get to keep your job or will be promoted. The law says that you are the only person who can give permission for yourself. Your boyfriend, father, husband, employer etc. cannot give permission on your behalf. The law says you have the right to stop the activity at any time and just because you agreed to one activity, (i.e. kissing) does not mean you agree to the next thing (i.e. taking your clothes off) . The law also says that you can indicate your non-agreement by what you do (your conduct). This means that a woman doesn't have to say "NO" in order to have communicated non-consent.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on consent.

Meaning of "Consent"

from the Criminal Code of Canada
 

273.1 (1) Subject to subsection (2) and subsection 265(3), "consent" means, for the purposes of sections 271, 272 and 273, the voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question.

Where no consent obtained

(2) No consent is obtained, for the purposes of sections 271, 272 and 273, where
(a) the agreement is expressed by the words or conduct of a person other than the complainant;
(b) the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity;
(c) the accused induces the complainant to engage in the activity by abusing a position of trust, power or authority;
(d) the complainant expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to engage in the activity; or
(e) the complainant, having consented to engage in sexual activity, expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to continue to engage in the activity.

Subsection (2) not limiting

(3) Nothing in subsection (2) shall be construed as limiting the circumstances in which no consent is obtained.
1992, c. 38, s. 1.

Where belief in consent not a defence

273.2 It is not a defence to a charge under section 271, 272 or 273 that the accused believed that the complainant consented to the activity that forms the subject-matter of the charge, where
(a) the accused's belief arose from the accused's
(i) self-induced intoxication, or
(ii) recklessness or wilful blindness; or
(b) the accused did not take reasonable steps, in the circumstances known to the accused at the time, to ascertain that the complainant was consenting.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

 

A rapist may look like an ordinary man.

 

CACSW Fact Sheet
Sexual Harassment

by CACSW, March 1993
(The Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women)
This document is also available in PDF for easier printing (8 pages)

Sexual harassment can take many forms

Sexual harassment is sexual behaviour that is unwanted. Often the harasser is someone in a position of formal authority, but harassment occurs between co-workers or peers as well. Men are sometimes harassed, but most of the victims of harassment are women.1The harasser is almost always male.2

Sometimes the harassment is directed at a particular woman. It could be in the form of suggestive comments, pressure for sexual contact, or demands for sex in return for a job or other benefit. It can involve unwanted sexual touching or rape (both are sexual assault). Sexual harassment also happens when sexual jokes, sexist remarks, or pin-ups create a hostile and intimidating environment for women.

Sometimes the harassment is also directed at a woman's racial or cultural background, sexual orientation, disability, or other personal characteristics.3 In these cases, the woman is multiply victimized. For example, racial minority women face prejudice and discrimination on two grounds; often, their harassment involves both racism and sexism.

Sexual harassment of women is widespread

Virtually every woman has experienced street harassment - whistles, sexual remarks, or touching by strangers in public places.4

Women also contend with unwanted sexual advances at work or school. In a recent national poll, more than 1/3 of the women who had worked outside the home said that they had been sexually harassed on the job.5 Surveys of students at Canadian universities have found that about half of the women respondents have experienced some kind of sexual harassment on campus.6 It also happens in other situations: women have reported sexual abuse by their doctors,7 therapists,8 lawyers,9 landlords, and neighbours.10

Sexual harassment is about power, not about sex

It is an abuse of power, the social and economic power that men hold over women. When men use their power to treat women sexually in a non-sexual context, they interfere with women's right to work, to learn, to walk on the street without fear, and to be treated as equal and respected participants in public life. Like other kinds of woman abuse, sexual harassment both reflects and reinforces women's unequal position in our society.

Workplace harassment reflects women's economic inequality

Despite laws against discrimination in the workplace, women generally remain in poorly paid, lower status, and less secure jobs. More than twice as many women as men work in clerical, sales, and service occupations.11 Women continue to be under-represented in managerial and leadership positions in our economy.

When women do enter non-traditional fields -- whether blue-collar or professional -- they may face harassment from hostile male co workers.12 Over 90% of women who responded to a "Women In Trades" survey said that they had been sexually harassed.13 A study of large U.S. corporations found that the highest rates of sexual harassment complaints are at companies with the lowest percentage of women workers.14

Poverty, race, language, and other barriers also put women at risk

Being at risk economically can be aggravated by other social differences. In a Montreal study of sexual discrimination against women tenants by landlords and neighbours, single mothers and women on welfare reported the highest levels of sexual harassment.15 Immigrant women, who often occupy the most low paying and least secure positions in the work force, may lack the support groups and language skills that are necessary to confront harassment.16

Sexual harassment can have serious consequences

Not all women react the same way, but many women feel degraded and humiliated by sexual harassment. Some women feel confused. They question their own feelings and reactions, before they realize that the harasser is responsible for the problem. They are angry, anxious, and, if the harassment persists, may become depressed and demoralized.

The emotional strain can cause physical illnesses such as nausea, headaches, and fatigue. It can affect a woman's personal life, and the quality of her work.17 She may be fired, or forced to leave her job or school program to avoid the harasser. Loss of self-confidence, health problems, unfair evaluations, poor references, and a disrupted work record can have a long-term economic impact, such as not being able to find another job.

Sexual harassment is against the law

Canadian law prohibits sexual harassment. Federal, provincial, and territorial human rights commissions are responsible for investigating and resolving harassment complaints. Employers have been held accountable for sexual harassment in the workplace.18 As a result, many large companies, unions, universities, professional bodies, and other institutions have adopted their own policies against sexual harassment.

Yet many women still feel they have few options

Only 4 of every 10 Canadian women who suffer sexual harassment at work take any formal action. Only one out of every two women believe that a complaint would be taken seriously in their workplace.19

Often, women who report harassment are not believed, are discredited, or are even blamed for the problem by their colleagues. As well, the harasser may retaliate. Legal action is slow, stressful, and expensive; and awards are usually small.20 Publicity surrounding a complaint may hurt a woman's job prospects and personal life. Few women can afford to take these risks.

The real solution is equality for women

Human rights agencies should be made more effective and accessible, and should provide better compensation to women who are sexually harassed. But human rights law by itself cannot end sexual harassment. The fundamental solution to sexual harassment is social, economic, and political equality for women.

What you can do

Speak out! Raise the issue of harassment in your workplace or institution. Give a copy of this fact sheet to someone who could benefit from reading it. Support women who are harassed.

If you are harassed:

  • Remember that it's not your fault. The harasser is responsible for his own behaviour.
  • The harassment most likely won't stop if you ignore it; it may actually get worse. 21
  • Find friends or colleagues who will support you. Other women probably have been harassed by the same man.22
  • Contact a rape crisis centre or women's centre to talk to other women who understand your situation. They can help you with ideas and strategies.
  • Protect yourself by keeping a detailed written record of every incident.
  • Ask the harasser to stop - in person or in writing. Take someone with you as a witness and for support.
  • If it continues, find out about other options: Does your union, workplace, or institution have a procedure for dealing with sexual harassment complaints? Whom can you count on to support you? Is there a group of women who can act together?
  • If you lose your job or suffer other reprisals, or your complaint isn't taken seriously, get advice about filing a complaint with a human rights commission, or suing the harasser and/or his employer.
  • You are entitled to Unemployment Insurance if you are fired or leave your job because of sexual harassment. In some provinces, Worker's Compensation Boards have awarded compensation to women who have suffered stress-related disability caused by sexual harassment on the job.23
  • If you have been sexually assaulted, call a rape crisis centre. They can help you with emotional and practical support as well as information about criminal charges and other legal action.
  • Finally, remember that there isn't one right way to handle sexual harassment. Seek advice, find out about your options, and then make your own informed decision about how to proceed. Only you can know what is best for you in your own situation.

The Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women (CACSW) advises the federal government and informs the public on issues important to women, such as economic inequality and sexual violence. Through research, recommendations, advocacy, and educational activities, the CACSW brings issues to the attention of the federal government and the Canadian public, and presses the government to take action. For more information about the CACSW's work on employment equity and sexual violence, for an annotated bibliography of this fact sheet, or to order copies of this fact sheet, please contact: CACSW, Box 1541, Station B, Ottawa, Ontario, KlP 5R5, Tel: (613) 992-4975, Fax: (613) 992-1715.


Endnotes for Sexual Harassment
FACT SHEET (March 1993)

  1. A. Aggarwal, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Butterworths, 1992) at 1.
  2. Ibid.

    See also D. Savoie, "Le harcèlement sexuel au travail : résultats de deux etudes québécoises" (1990) 45:1 Relations Industrielles 62.

  3. For a detailed discussion of the kinds of behaviour considered to be sexual harassment in Canadian law, see A. Aggarwal, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Butterworths, 1992) at 7-14, and The Canadian Human Rights Commission, Harassment Casebook (Ottawa: 1991).

    Women give their own descriptions of sexual harassment in A. C. Sumrall & D. Taylor, eds., Sexual Harassment. Women Speak Out (Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1992).

  4. There has been little research into the incidence of street harassment, but June Larkin, who documented her personal experience of street harassment, reported that street harassment accounted for 60% of the harassing incidents she experienced over a four month period. See J. Larkin, "Sexual Harassment: From the Personal to the Political" (1991) 17:1 Atlantis 106.
  5. The poll was conducted by the Angus-Reid Group in October 1991, shortly after the hearings on Clarence Thomas' nomination to the United States Supreme Court, which, because of Anita Hill's testimony, focused public attention on the issue of sexual harassment.

    See "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace" (1992) 7:1 7he Reid Report 32.

    Other research suggests that this figure is probably low, because women may not recognize that what has happened to them is sexual harassment. In a national survey conducted in 1981 for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, 57% of the women who reported that they had experienced unwanted sexual attention said that they did not think it was sexual harassment. But 115 of these women said that there were employment consequences as a result of the incident, and almost 1/4 reported that their emotional or physical condition worsened. By most definitions, these women had been sexually harassed. See The Canadian Human Rights Commission, Unwanted Sexual Attention and Sexual Harassment. Results of a Survey of Canadians (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1983).

  6. See S.A. McDaniel & E. van Roosmalen, "Sexual Harassment in Canadian Academe:
    Explorations of Power and Privilege" (1991) 17:1 Atlantis 3 at 13, and A. Burger, Report on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby: British Columbia Public Interest Research Group, 1986) at 12. The former study was conducted in 1985 at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario.

    Canadian findings are consistent with the more extensive United States research. United States studies are reviewed in V.C. Rabinowitz, "Coping With Sexual Harassment", in M.A. Paludi, ed., Ivory Power. Sexual Harassment on Campus (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990) at 103; and in K.M. Grahame, "Sexual Harassment", in C. Guberman and M. Wolfe, eds., No Safe Place: Violence Against Women and Children (Toronto: The Women's Press, 1985) at 117.

  7. A recent study found that 8% of Ontario women reported sexual harassment or abuse by doctors. This Canadian study, and the results of U.S. research, are discussed in M. McPhedran et al., 7he Final Report of the Task Force on Sexual Abuse of Patients (Toronto: The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, November 25, 1991) at 13.
  8. Ibid.

    See also S. Penfold, "Sexual Abuse Between Therapist and Woman Patient" (1989) 8:4 Canadian Woman Studies 29.

  9. P. Kulig, "LSUC to Study Compensating Victims of Sexual Assault", The Law Times (22 October 199 1) 1.
  10. S. Novac, "Sexual Harassment of Women Tenants" (1990) 11:2 Canadian Women's Studies 58; B. Rahder, ed., Why Put Up With It? Women Talking About Sexual Harassment of Tenants (Toronto: Ontario Women's Directorate, 1992); S. Novac, The Security of Her Person: Tenants' Experiences of Sexual Harassment (Toronto: Ontario Women's Directorate, forthcoming).

    See also R. Cahan, "Home is No Haven: an Analysis of Sexual Harassment in Housing" (1987) Wisconsin Law Review 1061 for U.S. research on this problem.

    For a case report, see "Victim Fails to Show, Man Still Found Guilty", Me Ottawa Citizen (23 April 1992) at B9.

  11. In 1990, 56.6% of women in the paid labour force worked at these kind of jobs, compared to 25.6% of men.

    Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Re-Evaluating Employment Equity: A Brief to the Special House of Commons Committee on the Review of the Employment Equity Act (Ottawa: 1992) at 4.

  12. Many sectors of the economy are still dominated by men. In 1990 only 0. 3 % of the female labour force worked in the construction industry, compared to 11.3% of men. The manufacturing sector employed 5.9 % of employed women, compared to 18.5 % of men (see Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Re-Evaluating Employment Equity: A Brief to the Special House of Commons Committee on the Review of the Employment Equity Act (Ottawa: 1992) at 4). As a result, women working in these fields can be isolated in a mostly-male workplace. The men seem to be threatened by women entering these new fields. As a woman maintenance worker said, "You get
    harassed because the men don't want you to work there -- they don't make a secret out of it." Quoted in A. Duffy, "Nine Housing Workers Charge Harassment", The Toronto Star (26 March 1992) at Al.
  13. Cited in M. Kadar, "The Union and Sexual Harassment", Canadian Dimension (June 1984) at 9.
  14. R. Sandroff, "Sexual Harassment in the Fortune 500", Working Woman (December 1988) at 69.
  15. Comite Logement Rosemont, "Discrimination, Harcelement et Harcelement Sexuel Rapport L'Enquete Femmes et Logement", (Montreal, 1986).
  16. See S. Campbell, "Chinese Women Urged to Speak Out For Rights", The Globe and Mail (23 March 1992) at A4. See also B. Rahder, ed., Why Put Up With It? Women Talking About Sexual Harassment of Tenants (Toronto: Ontario Women's Directorate, 1992).
  17. The stressful effects of workplace sexual harassment are described in G.S. Lowe, Women, Paid/Unpaid Work, and Stress (Ottawa: Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, 1989) at 30.
  18. The decision in Robichaud v. Canada (Treasury Board) (1987) 8 C.H.R.R. 680 at the Supreme Court of Canada settled this point.
  19. "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace" (1992) 7:1 The Reid Report 32.,

    Women who were surveyed were asked: "Have you yourself ever experienced some form of what you consider sexual harassment in the workplace?" and "Did you do anything about the harassment you were experiencing?". The second question was phrased in a way that suggested that "taking action" was the only way that women could "do something about it". In fact, trying to ignore the harassment is not "non-action", but is often what women decide is the best or only thing that they can do in the situation.

  20. See H. Levitt, "Legal System Ineffective on Sexual Harassment", The Toronto Star (11 May 1992) at Dl. Levitt reports that the normal delay before resolution of a human rights complaint in Ontario is six years. Unless a victim can claim general damages by proving that she was fired as a result of the harassment, she is limited to compensation for loss of dignity and mental distress. Canadian awards for such losses usually range from $250 to a few thousand dollars. Punitive damages cannot be awarded under current law.
  21. This study was conducted by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. It is cited by K.M. Grahame, "Sexual Harassment", in C. Guberman and M. Wolfe, eds., No Safe Place: Violence Against Women and Children (Toronto: The Women's Press, 1985) at 121.
  22. A Quebec study found that almost all the harassers in the study had harassed more than one woman under their authority. See D. Savoie, "Le harcelement sexuel au travail resultats de deux etudes quebecoises" (1990) 45:1 Relations Industrielles 62.
  23. See A. Aggarwal, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Butterworths, 1992) at 273-279, for a discussion of the law on this point.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

 

1. What happens if the accused is found guilty?
2. What punishment will a guilty person receive?

 

from Department of Justice Canada
 

1. What happens if the accused is found guilty?

Sometimes, the judge will decide on the punishment, the sentence, right away. More often, sentencing is put off for a few weeks.

A probation officer may be asked to prepare a pre-sentence report. In that case, the probation officer will speak to people who know the accused and then write up a history. Information on the accused's background -- place of birth, schooling, lifestyle and past criminal activity -- can help the judge decide the most appropriate punishment.

You may be asked to testify at a sentencing hearing. The judge may want to know what happened during the sexual assault. Were you hurt? Were you so badly hurt that you had to miss work? How long was it before you could return to your usual activities? These facts can also help the judge decide on an appropriate punishment.

In deciding on the sentence, the judge will consider whether or not the person found guilty of sexual assault has been found guilty of a crime before. If so, is there a past conviction for sexual assault? Repeat offenders are usually given a harsher punishment.

2. What punishment will a guilty person receive?

The law gives a judge a great deal of choice in deciding the most appropriate punishment for each case. Although the judge can decide on the punishment from a wide range of options, the maximum possible sentence depends on the crime.

 

 

Crime Maximum Sentence
aggravated sexual assault life in prison - max 25 years
sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or bodily harm 14 years in prison
sexual assault tried as an indictable offence 10 years in prison
sexual assault tried as a summary conviction offence* 6 months in jail and a $2,000 fine

 

 
Using these maximum punishments as a guide, a judge can decide on the length of the prison sentence. The judge can also fine the accused or insist that the person report to a probation officer regularly.
 

When the maximum punishment for a crime is 14 years in prison or longer, the minimum sentence a judge can give is an order to report to a probation officer for a set period of time. This is called a suspended sentence with probation. If an accused does not obey the probation order, the judge can give another sentence.

When the maximum penalty is less than 14 years in prison, the minimum sentence a judge can give is an absolute discharge. An absolute discharge means that the person is free to go and does not have a record for a criminal conviction.

Definitions:

The Canadian Criminal Code divides offenses into two categories: Indictable offenses and summary conviction offenses.
Indictable Offense: is the more serious criminal offense. The punishment for indictable offenses can be from two years in jail to life imprisonment.
*Summary Offense: is considered a less serious criminal offense. It carries a possible maximum punishment of six months in jail and/or a $2,000 fine

Source: ...after sexual assault...; Your guide to the criminal justice system, Department of Justice Canada, Ottawa, Ontario 1991:61-62


A note from Rape Relief

In order for someone to be found guilty of a sexual assault three things must be proved in court:

  • Occurrence - that the assault actually happened.
  • Identity - that the accused person is the one who made the attack
  • Consent - that the attack was not consensual sexual activity

For more information about these points, talk to women at your local feminist rape crisis centre.

There is more information about all of these points at this website and a more thorough explanation of consent in our FAQ section.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

NO. When someone breaks the law by assaulting or threatening they have committed an offense against the public. The police have the publically assigned responsibility to arrest and recommend charges when they suspect that the law has been broken. When you make a statement to the police about an assault or a threat of assault, it is their responsibility to investigate swiftly and thoroughly and to proceed effectively. It is not up to the victim whether charges are to be laid or not, nor whether someone is to be arrested or not.

Call a rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre if you need advocacy to get the police to take your complaint seriously!

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

 

This is one of the myths perpetuated about rape. In fact, she can. Read this article to learn about the many myths and facts about rape.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Rape drugs are nothing new. Rohypnol and GHB are only the latest drugs men rape with. Attention focuses on Rohypnol, but rapists continue to use alcohol, prescription medication, marijuana, cocaine, heroin etc. to access and incapacitate women.

Women are bombarded with warnings to modify their behaviour in order to stay safe from Rohypnol but the number of women calling our rape crisis line to report the use of drugs or alcohol as a factor in rape remains constant at about one-quarter of the reports we receive each year.

Women continue to take precautions such as: going out in groups and watching out for one another in social situations. However, the onus should not be on women to continually adjust and restrict their behaviour. A more effective prevention strategy would be for men to challenge their male friends who choose to attack women by using drugs and alcohol.

For more information read our Feminist Guide to Rape Drugs (text version) or download the pamphlet to your computer for printing.

Learning some self defense techniques can help you be more confident, teach you some practical skills and get you connected to other women who are also fed up with feeling vulnerable. However, a lot of courses or schools teach self defense as though all potential attackers are strangers who leap out from the dark. Sometimes these types of skills don't prepare us for the other 90% of attacks which are done by men we know and who surprise us in a different way.

In Vancouver, there is a woman run self defense group called, Women Educating in Self-defense Training (WENLIDO). They are community based and very practical about the types of defense tactics they teach. Visit their website for more information, and an up-to-date schedule of courses available.

 Watch this short video

Male Violence Against Women ~ What can Men do?

  • Believe women when they tell you about their experiences of sexism
  • Respect women's wishes about how they want their situation to be handled
  • Do your fair share of childcare and household chores
  • Don't pressure women for sex and tell your male friends to stop doing it
  • If you know a male friend or family member is violent or abusive to the women in his life, tell him to stop. Support him to get help and don't expect the women around you to do all of this work.
  • Stop telling sexist jokes
  • Stop using pornography
  • Stop using prostituted women
  • If you are violent towards women, get help to stop
  • Support your local rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre, perhaps a woman you know will need us sometime.

These things are simple. Ending male violence against women isn't mysterious. It requires the combined effort of all of us to end rape, sexual assault and woman beating.

What can women do?

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Listed below are some of the legislation and policies in place in BC to help assist women escaping male violence. It is not a complete list.

Police and Crown Policy click here

Police release guidelines click here

Criminal Code of Canada click here

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom click here 

Crime Victim Assistance click here

Human Trafficking Guide for Law Enforcement click here

Palermo Accord United Nations Protocol on Trafficking click here

Temporary Residency Permit click here

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Feminists have argued and fought to protect women's sexual history from unnecessary use in court. We know that while sexism continues to exist, no woman will have a sexual history that is acceptable. Exposure of women's past sexual activity is used to damage a woman's credibility as a witness in court. In 1992, feminists succeeded in our work to get a rape shield law that would provide protection for women from this kind of unneccessary questioning and exposure. The law basically says that a complainant's past sexual history can't be used to imply that someone is less believable as a witness or imply that they probably consented to the sexual activity (the sexual assault) based on having done that sexual activity in the past or because she had sexual relations with the accused in the past. The law provides strict guidelines to judges for how previous sexual conduct can be used by an accused person at trial.

This law has been protected by the Supreme Court of Canada many times.

If you are going to court or thinking about making a report to police and you are worried about the use of your past sexual history in court, please consider calling us or another independent feminist rape crisis centre for further information and support.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on evidence of a complainant's sexual history
Supreme Court upholds rape-shield law October 13, 2000
Supreme Court to decide constitutionality of rape-shield law October 10, 2000

Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre immediately, transition house or women's centre. You can contact us 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We are available to accompany you to the hospital/ clinic. All of our services are free and confidential.

IYou can arrange for a rape crisis worker from Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter to meet you at either hospital 24 hours a day on call. Please call (604) 872-8212 or we can meet first at our center and go together.  You do not have to be sure that you want medical attention in order to call us. We are here to listen and to help you think through what are the best steps for you to take at this time.

We can assist you with transportation. All of our services are free of charge.

Ifyou have been sexually assaulted within the past seven days, you can go directly to the Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) Emergency Department at 920 West 10th Avenue (near Broadway and Oak) in Vancouver, B.C or to the Surrey Memorial Hospital at 13750 96 Avenue, Surrey, BC V3V 1Z2.

Ask for the Sexual Assault Service. .

The Sexual Assault Service is designed to provide prompt, sensitive and confidential care following a sexual assault.  You have choices about the medical care you receive. Having a member of our team with you during the process can help you decide what sections of the medical procedure and process are right for you at this time. Rape Relief members can be with you during the process. We can make sure that rights upheld.  You have a right to this medical care without the police, parents, social worker, family doctor or partner being informed. You are entitled to a language interpreter if required.

All care provided is at no cost. 

You do not have to have a care card in order to receive care and all of the treatment is free.

There are many free community clinics and centers that can also assist you after the initial 7 days. You can access some of this health care without having to provide a name or a health card. Please call our confidential rape crisis line to find out more information: (604) 872-8212. We can give you a list of doctors that are currently accepting patients and information on how to check what other women are saying about specific doctors.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Exclusive Occupancy of the Family Home

The Family Relations Act does not specify what a judge should consider in making a decision about exclusive occupancy. However, case law has established that the spouse who wants such an order must show that sharing the home with the other spouse is a practical impossibility. Violent conduct by the other spouse may show the required practical impossibility....

Where there is a risk of future violence, [you] may ask for an order under s. 126 prohibiting contact, and an exclusive occupancy order under s. 124 at the same time, for a greater measure of protection. The combined orders are meant to ensure that the family home is safer

You can apply for "restraining orders; either to prevent harassment (s. 37), or to prohibit contact (s. 38, s. 126). Restraining orders under ss. 37 and 38 can be made with or without notice to the other person. Without notice orders can be granted in cases of urgency, including where the location of the other person is unknown or if the fact of giving notice itself may lead to violence.

Orders made under ss. 37 and 38 authorize the police to arrest the other person if he or she violates the terms of the restraining order. Both ss. 37 and 38 allow a judge to require the person named in the order to put up money that will be forfeited if the person fails to obey the order, or to require the person to report to a designated person for a period of time set by the judge. In addition, under s. 38, a judge may require the person to deposit documents, such as a passport, with a designated person, or transfer specific property to a trustee on specified terms and conditions. An order to transfer property may only be made by a Supreme Court judge.

Section 126 allows a judge to make an order prohibiting one person from entering a place occupied by another person or a child in that person’s custody. This is similar to one of the orders available under s. 38, but s. 126 applies only to separated spouses, regardless of whether or not they have children.

At the end of the day the order is only as good as your husband obeys it and the indvidual police officer who enforces it. You may find police are reluctant to take action against your ex partner. You may have to advocate for yourself. If you have trouble with this you can call us to be with you and support you. If your husband continues to harrass you and threaten you there are shelters for you and your family to go to. Please refer to the section of the website marked - escape an abusive man or help a friend.  

This information was adapted from Chapter 9 of Ministry of Attorney General  Justice Services Branch  Civil and Family Law Policy Office  Family Relations Act Review Discussion Paper  Prepared by the Civil and Family Law Policy Office April 2007

Please call Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter to talk more about your specific case. We can schedule an appointment with our free legal clinic. (604) 872-8212

Volunteering

 

Male Violence Against Women ~ What can women do?

  • Get information about your rights in your workplace and your home
  • If you are isolated, join a women's group to get some support
  • In both public places and in the home, offer your support and alliance to a woman you know is dealing with male violence
  • If you are in a relationship with a man who is violent towards you or your children, call a transition house or rape crisis centre to get help and information - we'll help you escape.
  • If your employer isn't acting effectively to stop sexual harassment in your workplace, call a rape crisis centre to get backup.
  • Volunteer at your local rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre

These things are simple. Ending male violence against women isn't mysterious. It requires the combined effort of all of us to end rape, sexual assault and woman beating.

What can men do?

Great! It's a critical time for women to get involved in women-run organizations. By supporting a women's advocacy group you help ensure the group can be there for you when you need information, support and advocacy.

If you live in the Greater Vancouver Regional District, please consider volunteering with Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter. Women volunteers are an essential part of keeping the 24 hour crisis line open and available. We provide free training for women after a volunteer interview. For more information see our Get Involved menu. To book an interview call (604) 872-8212.

If you live in another part of British Columbia there may be a rape crisis line, transition house or women's centre in your town or on your campus if you are a student. You can find a partial list of women's centres in B.C here.

Violence Against Women

Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre immediately, transition house or women's centre. You can contact us 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We are available to accompany you to the hospital/ clinic. All of our services are free and confidential.

IYou can arrange for a rape crisis worker from Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter to meet you at either hospital 24 hours a day on call. Please call (604) 872-8212 or we can meet first at our center and go together.  You do not have to be sure that you want medical attention in order to call us. We are here to listen and to help you think through what are the best steps for you to take at this time.

We can assist you with transportation. All of our services are free of charge.

Ifyou have been sexually assaulted within the past seven days, you can go directly to the Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) Emergency Department at 920 West 10th Avenue (near Broadway and Oak) in Vancouver, B.C or to the Surrey Memorial Hospital at 13750 96 Avenue, Surrey, BC V3V 1Z2.

Ask for the Sexual Assault Service. .

The Sexual Assault Service is designed to provide prompt, sensitive and confidential care following a sexual assault.  You have choices about the medical care you receive. Having a member of our team with you during the process can help you decide what sections of the medical procedure and process are right for you at this time. Rape Relief members can be with you during the process. We can make sure that rights upheld.  You have a right to this medical care without the police, parents, social worker, family doctor or partner being informed. You are entitled to a language interpreter if required.

All care provided is at no cost. 

You do not have to have a care card in order to receive care and all of the treatment is free.

There are many free community clinics and centers that can also assist you after the initial 7 days. You can access some of this health care without having to provide a name or a health card. Please call our confidential rape crisis line to find out more information: (604) 872-8212. We can give you a list of doctors that are currently accepting patients and information on how to check what other women are saying about specific doctors.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Exclusive Occupancy of the Family Home

The Family Relations Act does not specify what a judge should consider in making a decision about exclusive occupancy. However, case law has established that the spouse who wants such an order must show that sharing the home with the other spouse is a practical impossibility. Violent conduct by the other spouse may show the required practical impossibility....

Where there is a risk of future violence, [you] may ask for an order under s. 126 prohibiting contact, and an exclusive occupancy order under s. 124 at the same time, for a greater measure of protection. The combined orders are meant to ensure that the family home is safer

You can apply for "restraining orders; either to prevent harassment (s. 37), or to prohibit contact (s. 38, s. 126). Restraining orders under ss. 37 and 38 can be made with or without notice to the other person. Without notice orders can be granted in cases of urgency, including where the location of the other person is unknown or if the fact of giving notice itself may lead to violence.

Orders made under ss. 37 and 38 authorize the police to arrest the other person if he or she violates the terms of the restraining order. Both ss. 37 and 38 allow a judge to require the person named in the order to put up money that will be forfeited if the person fails to obey the order, or to require the person to report to a designated person for a period of time set by the judge. In addition, under s. 38, a judge may require the person to deposit documents, such as a passport, with a designated person, or transfer specific property to a trustee on specified terms and conditions. An order to transfer property may only be made by a Supreme Court judge.

Section 126 allows a judge to make an order prohibiting one person from entering a place occupied by another person or a child in that person’s custody. This is similar to one of the orders available under s. 38, but s. 126 applies only to separated spouses, regardless of whether or not they have children.

At the end of the day the order is only as good as your husband obeys it and the indvidual police officer who enforces it. You may find police are reluctant to take action against your ex partner. You may have to advocate for yourself. If you have trouble with this you can call us to be with you and support you. If your husband continues to harrass you and threaten you there are shelters for you and your family to go to. Please refer to the section of the website marked - escape an abusive man or help a friend.  

This information was adapted from Chapter 9 of Ministry of Attorney General  Justice Services Branch  Civil and Family Law Policy Office  Family Relations Act Review Discussion Paper  Prepared by the Civil and Family Law Policy Office April 2007

Please call Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter to talk more about your specific case. We can schedule an appointment with our free legal clinic. (604) 872-8212

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Listed below are some of the legislation and policies in place in BC to help assist women escaping male violence. It is not a complete list.

Police and Crown Policy click here

Police release guidelines click here

Criminal Code of Canada click here

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom click here 

Crime Victim Assistance click here

Human Trafficking Guide for Law Enforcement click here

Palermo Accord United Nations Protocol on Trafficking click here

Temporary Residency Permit click here

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Feminists have argued and fought to protect women's sexual history from unnecessary use in court. We know that while sexism continues to exist, no woman will have a sexual history that is acceptable. Exposure of women's past sexual activity is used to damage a woman's credibility as a witness in court. In 1992, feminists succeeded in our work to get a rape shield law that would provide protection for women from this kind of unneccessary questioning and exposure. The law basically says that a complainant's past sexual history can't be used to imply that someone is less believable as a witness or imply that they probably consented to the sexual activity (the sexual assault) based on having done that sexual activity in the past or because she had sexual relations with the accused in the past. The law provides strict guidelines to judges for how previous sexual conduct can be used by an accused person at trial.

This law has been protected by the Supreme Court of Canada many times.

If you are going to court or thinking about making a report to police and you are worried about the use of your past sexual history in court, please consider calling us or another independent feminist rape crisis centre for further information and support.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on evidence of a complainant's sexual history
Supreme Court upholds rape-shield law October 13, 2000
Supreme Court to decide constitutionality of rape-shield law October 10, 2000

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

 

1. What happens if the accused is found guilty?
2. What punishment will a guilty person receive?

 

from Department of Justice Canada
 

1. What happens if the accused is found guilty?

Sometimes, the judge will decide on the punishment, the sentence, right away. More often, sentencing is put off for a few weeks.

A probation officer may be asked to prepare a pre-sentence report. In that case, the probation officer will speak to people who know the accused and then write up a history. Information on the accused's background -- place of birth, schooling, lifestyle and past criminal activity -- can help the judge decide the most appropriate punishment.

You may be asked to testify at a sentencing hearing. The judge may want to know what happened during the sexual assault. Were you hurt? Were you so badly hurt that you had to miss work? How long was it before you could return to your usual activities? These facts can also help the judge decide on an appropriate punishment.

In deciding on the sentence, the judge will consider whether or not the person found guilty of sexual assault has been found guilty of a crime before. If so, is there a past conviction for sexual assault? Repeat offenders are usually given a harsher punishment.

2. What punishment will a guilty person receive?

The law gives a judge a great deal of choice in deciding the most appropriate punishment for each case. Although the judge can decide on the punishment from a wide range of options, the maximum possible sentence depends on the crime.

 

 

Crime Maximum Sentence
aggravated sexual assault life in prison - max 25 years
sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or bodily harm 14 years in prison
sexual assault tried as an indictable offence 10 years in prison
sexual assault tried as a summary conviction offence* 6 months in jail and a $2,000 fine

 

 
Using these maximum punishments as a guide, a judge can decide on the length of the prison sentence. The judge can also fine the accused or insist that the person report to a probation officer regularly.
 

When the maximum punishment for a crime is 14 years in prison or longer, the minimum sentence a judge can give is an order to report to a probation officer for a set period of time. This is called a suspended sentence with probation. If an accused does not obey the probation order, the judge can give another sentence.

When the maximum penalty is less than 14 years in prison, the minimum sentence a judge can give is an absolute discharge. An absolute discharge means that the person is free to go and does not have a record for a criminal conviction.

Definitions:

The Canadian Criminal Code divides offenses into two categories: Indictable offenses and summary conviction offenses.
Indictable Offense: is the more serious criminal offense. The punishment for indictable offenses can be from two years in jail to life imprisonment.
*Summary Offense: is considered a less serious criminal offense. It carries a possible maximum punishment of six months in jail and/or a $2,000 fine

Source: ...after sexual assault...; Your guide to the criminal justice system, Department of Justice Canada, Ottawa, Ontario 1991:61-62


A note from Rape Relief

In order for someone to be found guilty of a sexual assault three things must be proved in court:

  • Occurrence - that the assault actually happened.
  • Identity - that the accused person is the one who made the attack
  • Consent - that the attack was not consensual sexual activity

For more information about these points, talk to women at your local feminist rape crisis centre.

There is more information about all of these points at this website and a more thorough explanation of consent in our FAQ section.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

NO. When someone breaks the law by assaulting or threatening they have committed an offense against the public. The police have the publically assigned responsibility to arrest and recommend charges when they suspect that the law has been broken. When you make a statement to the police about an assault or a threat of assault, it is their responsibility to investigate swiftly and thoroughly and to proceed effectively. It is not up to the victim whether charges are to be laid or not, nor whether someone is to be arrested or not.

Call a rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre if you need advocacy to get the police to take your complaint seriously!

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Consent must be clearly given every time people engage in sexual contact.

A woman has the legal right to change her mind about having sex at any point of sexual contact. If her partner does not stop at the time she changes her mind, this is sexual assault.

In 1992 a new law was passed that defines "consent" as voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity with someone. It is popularly known as the "NO MEANS NO" law.

Importantly, the law recognizes that there are certain situations that make giving true voluntary agreement questionable. Such situations include if the person wanting sex with you is in a position of trust or in a position of power or authority over you. For example, teachers or bosses have this sort of position, since they have a say over what grade you get, or if you get to keep your job or will be promoted. The law says that you are the only person who can give permission for yourself. Your boyfriend, father, husband, employer etc. cannot give permission on your behalf. The law says you have the right to stop the activity at any time and just because you agreed to one activity, (i.e. kissing) does not mean you agree to the next thing (i.e. taking your clothes off) . The law also says that you can indicate your non-agreement by what you do (your conduct). This means that a woman doesn't have to say "NO" in order to have communicated non-consent.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on consent.

Meaning of "Consent"

from the Criminal Code of Canada
 

273.1 (1) Subject to subsection (2) and subsection 265(3), "consent" means, for the purposes of sections 271, 272 and 273, the voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question.

Where no consent obtained

(2) No consent is obtained, for the purposes of sections 271, 272 and 273, where
(a) the agreement is expressed by the words or conduct of a person other than the complainant;
(b) the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity;
(c) the accused induces the complainant to engage in the activity by abusing a position of trust, power or authority;
(d) the complainant expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to engage in the activity; or
(e) the complainant, having consented to engage in sexual activity, expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to continue to engage in the activity.

Subsection (2) not limiting

(3) Nothing in subsection (2) shall be construed as limiting the circumstances in which no consent is obtained.
1992, c. 38, s. 1.

Where belief in consent not a defence

273.2 It is not a defence to a charge under section 271, 272 or 273 that the accused believed that the complainant consented to the activity that forms the subject-matter of the charge, where
(a) the accused's belief arose from the accused's
(i) self-induced intoxication, or
(ii) recklessness or wilful blindness; or
(b) the accused did not take reasonable steps, in the circumstances known to the accused at the time, to ascertain that the complainant was consenting.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Sexual assault includes unwanted vaginal, anal or oral penetration, groping/touching your body and forced kissing. There are a lot of other names used to describe sexual assault including: date or acquaintance rape, marital rape, incest and gang rape. Sexual harassment often includes some form of sexual assault. The vast majority of attacks are done by heterosexual men on women. No matter what it is called, sexual assault is an abuse of power in which men force women into violent situations against our will. It is an attempt to control women and to deny our right to control our own bodies.

Many women experience sexual assault during our lives. One woman in four will be raped sometime in her life. The attack will most often be by someone she knows (Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres). One in eight girls is sexually assaulted before the age of 18, most often by a male family member (Vancouver United Way).

If you are considering using the police, you can get support and further information by calling an independent feminist rape crisis centre. If you decide not to use the police that's okay too, the majority of women who have suffered a sexual assault choose not to use the police. We will respect your decisions and maintain your confidentiality.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault Law

from the Criminal Code
October 2000

271. (1) Every one who commits a sexual assault is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months.
(2) [Repealed, R.S., 1985, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 10]
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 271; R.S., 1985, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 10; 1994, c. 44, s. 19.

Sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm

272. (1) Every person commits an offence who, in committing a sexual assault,
(a) carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation of a weapon;
(b) threatens to cause bodily harm to a person other than the complainant;
(c) causes bodily harm to the complainant; or
(d) is a party to the offence with any other person.

Punishment

(2) Every person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and
(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 272; 1995, c. 39, s. 145.

Aggravated sexual assault

273. (1) Every one commits an aggravated sexual assault who, in committing a sexual assault, wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.

Aggravated sexual assault

(2) Every person who commits an aggravated sexual assault is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and
(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for life.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

 

This is one of the myths perpetuated about rape. In fact, she can. Read this article to learn about the many myths and facts about rape.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

 

A rapist may look like an ordinary man.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Many women are the victims of violence from their husbands or boyfriends. We know that “54% of women living with men will be struck at some time during the relationship by their partners” (CIDA). We also know that “60% of rapes, battering, and sexual assaults, take place in the home, the place women are supposed to be most safe” (Vancouver Rape Relief). This means that there are many men who use violence and it is impossible for anyone to determine which man might be violent and which man might not be violent. Each man makes this decision for himself with each encounter he has with women in his life and it is not your fault if your boyfriend or husband uses violence against you.

Violence that men use when they are in a relationship with a woman can be physical, verbal, or sexual. The following are common examples of how men use sexist violence:

  • He doesn’t want you to see friends or family or gets mad at you when you do
  • He doesn’t want you to try new activities such as, joining a women’s group, taking a new class, or getting a job.
  • He tells you how much money you can spend, or what you can spend money on.
  • He tells you what to wear, what to eat, when you can talk or how to organize your day.
  • He gets jealous and mad if you go anywhere, for example to the store, or out with friends.
  • He gets jealous and mad if you mention speaking to other men, friends, co-workers, your friend’s husband.
  • He calls you names; fat, stupid, ugly, bitch, or tells you you’re not good enough.
  • He threatens you, yells at you, swears at you.
  • He uses physical violence such as; punching, slapping, pushing, pinching, kicking, spitting, not letting you leave the house, a room, or the car.
  • He punches walls, or destroys other property.
  • He uses sexual abuse or rape- forcing you to have sex when you don’t feel like it, withholding money or favors until he gets sex.
  • He forced or pressured you into sexual acts that you’re uncomfortable with.

If your husband or boyfriend is doing any of these behaviors with you, you can call us or another feminist rape crisis center to talk to about what to do. We are available for you to talk to on our crisis line 24 hours a day. We are completely confidential and we have a transition house for women and their children who are escaping violence.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Rape drugs are nothing new. Rohypnol and GHB are only the latest drugs men rape with. Attention focuses on Rohypnol, but rapists continue to use alcohol, prescription medication, marijuana, cocaine, heroin etc. to access and incapacitate women.

Women are bombarded with warnings to modify their behaviour in order to stay safe from Rohypnol but the number of women calling our rape crisis line to report the use of drugs or alcohol as a factor in rape remains constant at about one-quarter of the reports we receive each year.

Women continue to take precautions such as: going out in groups and watching out for one another in social situations. However, the onus should not be on women to continually adjust and restrict their behaviour. A more effective prevention strategy would be for men to challenge their male friends who choose to attack women by using drugs and alcohol.

For more information read our Feminist Guide to Rape Drugs (text version) or download the pamphlet to your computer for printing.

Learning some self defense techniques can help you be more confident, teach you some practical skills and get you connected to other women who are also fed up with feeling vulnerable. However, a lot of courses or schools teach self defense as though all potential attackers are strangers who leap out from the dark. Sometimes these types of skills don't prepare us for the other 90% of attacks which are done by men we know and who surprise us in a different way.

In Vancouver, there is a woman run self defense group called, Women Educating in Self-defense Training (WENLIDO). They are community based and very practical about the types of defense tactics they teach. Visit their website for more information, and an up-to-date schedule of courses available.

 

CACSW Fact Sheet
Sexual Harassment

by CACSW, March 1993
(The Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women)
This document is also available in PDF for easier printing (8 pages)

Sexual harassment can take many forms

Sexual harassment is sexual behaviour that is unwanted. Often the harasser is someone in a position of formal authority, but harassment occurs between co-workers or peers as well. Men are sometimes harassed, but most of the victims of harassment are women.1The harasser is almost always male.2

Sometimes the harassment is directed at a particular woman. It could be in the form of suggestive comments, pressure for sexual contact, or demands for sex in return for a job or other benefit. It can involve unwanted sexual touching or rape (both are sexual assault). Sexual harassment also happens when sexual jokes, sexist remarks, or pin-ups create a hostile and intimidating environment for women.

Sometimes the harassment is also directed at a woman's racial or cultural background, sexual orientation, disability, or other personal characteristics.3 In these cases, the woman is multiply victimized. For example, racial minority women face prejudice and discrimination on two grounds; often, their harassment involves both racism and sexism.

Sexual harassment of women is widespread

Virtually every woman has experienced street harassment - whistles, sexual remarks, or touching by strangers in public places.4

Women also contend with unwanted sexual advances at work or school. In a recent national poll, more than 1/3 of the women who had worked outside the home said that they had been sexually harassed on the job.5 Surveys of students at Canadian universities have found that about half of the women respondents have experienced some kind of sexual harassment on campus.6 It also happens in other situations: women have reported sexual abuse by their doctors,7 therapists,8 lawyers,9 landlords, and neighbours.10

Sexual harassment is about power, not about sex

It is an abuse of power, the social and economic power that men hold over women. When men use their power to treat women sexually in a non-sexual context, they interfere with women's right to work, to learn, to walk on the street without fear, and to be treated as equal and respected participants in public life. Like other kinds of woman abuse, sexual harassment both reflects and reinforces women's unequal position in our society.

Workplace harassment reflects women's economic inequality

Despite laws against discrimination in the workplace, women generally remain in poorly paid, lower status, and less secure jobs. More than twice as many women as men work in clerical, sales, and service occupations.11 Women continue to be under-represented in managerial and leadership positions in our economy.

When women do enter non-traditional fields -- whether blue-collar or professional -- they may face harassment from hostile male co workers.12 Over 90% of women who responded to a "Women In Trades" survey said that they had been sexually harassed.13 A study of large U.S. corporations found that the highest rates of sexual harassment complaints are at companies with the lowest percentage of women workers.14

Poverty, race, language, and other barriers also put women at risk

Being at risk economically can be aggravated by other social differences. In a Montreal study of sexual discrimination against women tenants by landlords and neighbours, single mothers and women on welfare reported the highest levels of sexual harassment.15 Immigrant women, who often occupy the most low paying and least secure positions in the work force, may lack the support groups and language skills that are necessary to confront harassment.16

Sexual harassment can have serious consequences

Not all women react the same way, but many women feel degraded and humiliated by sexual harassment. Some women feel confused. They question their own feelings and reactions, before they realize that the harasser is responsible for the problem. They are angry, anxious, and, if the harassment persists, may become depressed and demoralized.

The emotional strain can cause physical illnesses such as nausea, headaches, and fatigue. It can affect a woman's personal life, and the quality of her work.17 She may be fired, or forced to leave her job or school program to avoid the harasser. Loss of self-confidence, health problems, unfair evaluations, poor references, and a disrupted work record can have a long-term economic impact, such as not being able to find another job.

Sexual harassment is against the law

Canadian law prohibits sexual harassment. Federal, provincial, and territorial human rights commissions are responsible for investigating and resolving harassment complaints. Employers have been held accountable for sexual harassment in the workplace.18 As a result, many large companies, unions, universities, professional bodies, and other institutions have adopted their own policies against sexual harassment.

Yet many women still feel they have few options

Only 4 of every 10 Canadian women who suffer sexual harassment at work take any formal action. Only one out of every two women believe that a complaint would be taken seriously in their workplace.19

Often, women who report harassment are not believed, are discredited, or are even blamed for the problem by their colleagues. As well, the harasser may retaliate. Legal action is slow, stressful, and expensive; and awards are usually small.20 Publicity surrounding a complaint may hurt a woman's job prospects and personal life. Few women can afford to take these risks.

The real solution is equality for women

Human rights agencies should be made more effective and accessible, and should provide better compensation to women who are sexually harassed. But human rights law by itself cannot end sexual harassment. The fundamental solution to sexual harassment is social, economic, and political equality for women.

What you can do

Speak out! Raise the issue of harassment in your workplace or institution. Give a copy of this fact sheet to someone who could benefit from reading it. Support women who are harassed.

If you are harassed:

  • Remember that it's not your fault. The harasser is responsible for his own behaviour.
  • The harassment most likely won't stop if you ignore it; it may actually get worse. 21
  • Find friends or colleagues who will support you. Other women probably have been harassed by the same man.22
  • Contact a rape crisis centre or women's centre to talk to other women who understand your situation. They can help you with ideas and strategies.
  • Protect yourself by keeping a detailed written record of every incident.
  • Ask the harasser to stop - in person or in writing. Take someone with you as a witness and for support.
  • If it continues, find out about other options: Does your union, workplace, or institution have a procedure for dealing with sexual harassment complaints? Whom can you count on to support you? Is there a group of women who can act together?
  • If you lose your job or suffer other reprisals, or your complaint isn't taken seriously, get advice about filing a complaint with a human rights commission, or suing the harasser and/or his employer.
  • You are entitled to Unemployment Insurance if you are fired or leave your job because of sexual harassment. In some provinces, Worker's Compensation Boards have awarded compensation to women who have suffered stress-related disability caused by sexual harassment on the job.23
  • If you have been sexually assaulted, call a rape crisis centre. They can help you with emotional and practical support as well as information about criminal charges and other legal action.
  • Finally, remember that there isn't one right way to handle sexual harassment. Seek advice, find out about your options, and then make your own informed decision about how to proceed. Only you can know what is best for you in your own situation.

The Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women (CACSW) advises the federal government and informs the public on issues important to women, such as economic inequality and sexual violence. Through research, recommendations, advocacy, and educational activities, the CACSW brings issues to the attention of the federal government and the Canadian public, and presses the government to take action. For more information about the CACSW's work on employment equity and sexual violence, for an annotated bibliography of this fact sheet, or to order copies of this fact sheet, please contact: CACSW, Box 1541, Station B, Ottawa, Ontario, KlP 5R5, Tel: (613) 992-4975, Fax: (613) 992-1715.


Endnotes for Sexual Harassment
FACT SHEET (March 1993)

  1. A. Aggarwal, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Butterworths, 1992) at 1.
  2. Ibid.

    See also D. Savoie, "Le harcèlement sexuel au travail : résultats de deux etudes québécoises" (1990) 45:1 Relations Industrielles 62.

  3. For a detailed discussion of the kinds of behaviour considered to be sexual harassment in Canadian law, see A. Aggarwal, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Butterworths, 1992) at 7-14, and The Canadian Human Rights Commission, Harassment Casebook (Ottawa: 1991).

    Women give their own descriptions of sexual harassment in A. C. Sumrall & D. Taylor, eds., Sexual Harassment. Women Speak Out (Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1992).

  4. There has been little research into the incidence of street harassment, but June Larkin, who documented her personal experience of street harassment, reported that street harassment accounted for 60% of the harassing incidents she experienced over a four month period. See J. Larkin, "Sexual Harassment: From the Personal to the Political" (1991) 17:1 Atlantis 106.
  5. The poll was conducted by the Angus-Reid Group in October 1991, shortly after the hearings on Clarence Thomas' nomination to the United States Supreme Court, which, because of Anita Hill's testimony, focused public attention on the issue of sexual harassment.

    See "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace" (1992) 7:1 7he Reid Report 32.

    Other research suggests that this figure is probably low, because women may not recognize that what has happened to them is sexual harassment. In a national survey conducted in 1981 for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, 57% of the women who reported that they had experienced unwanted sexual attention said that they did not think it was sexual harassment. But 115 of these women said that there were employment consequences as a result of the incident, and almost 1/4 reported that their emotional or physical condition worsened. By most definitions, these women had been sexually harassed. See The Canadian Human Rights Commission, Unwanted Sexual Attention and Sexual Harassment. Results of a Survey of Canadians (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1983).

  6. See S.A. McDaniel & E. van Roosmalen, "Sexual Harassment in Canadian Academe:
    Explorations of Power and Privilege" (1991) 17:1 Atlantis 3 at 13, and A. Burger, Report on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby: British Columbia Public Interest Research Group, 1986) at 12. The former study was conducted in 1985 at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario.

    Canadian findings are consistent with the more extensive United States research. United States studies are reviewed in V.C. Rabinowitz, "Coping With Sexual Harassment", in M.A. Paludi, ed., Ivory Power. Sexual Harassment on Campus (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990) at 103; and in K.M. Grahame, "Sexual Harassment", in C. Guberman and M. Wolfe, eds., No Safe Place: Violence Against Women and Children (Toronto: The Women's Press, 1985) at 117.

  7. A recent study found that 8% of Ontario women reported sexual harassment or abuse by doctors. This Canadian study, and the results of U.S. research, are discussed in M. McPhedran et al., 7he Final Report of the Task Force on Sexual Abuse of Patients (Toronto: The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, November 25, 1991) at 13.
  8. Ibid.

    See also S. Penfold, "Sexual Abuse Between Therapist and Woman Patient" (1989) 8:4 Canadian Woman Studies 29.

  9. P. Kulig, "LSUC to Study Compensating Victims of Sexual Assault", The Law Times (22 October 199 1) 1.
  10. S. Novac, "Sexual Harassment of Women Tenants" (1990) 11:2 Canadian Women's Studies 58; B. Rahder, ed., Why Put Up With It? Women Talking About Sexual Harassment of Tenants (Toronto: Ontario Women's Directorate, 1992); S. Novac, The Security of Her Person: Tenants' Experiences of Sexual Harassment (Toronto: Ontario Women's Directorate, forthcoming).

    See also R. Cahan, "Home is No Haven: an Analysis of Sexual Harassment in Housing" (1987) Wisconsin Law Review 1061 for U.S. research on this problem.

    For a case report, see "Victim Fails to Show, Man Still Found Guilty", Me Ottawa Citizen (23 April 1992) at B9.

  11. In 1990, 56.6% of women in the paid labour force worked at these kind of jobs, compared to 25.6% of men.

    Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Re-Evaluating Employment Equity: A Brief to the Special House of Commons Committee on the Review of the Employment Equity Act (Ottawa: 1992) at 4.

  12. Many sectors of the economy are still dominated by men. In 1990 only 0. 3 % of the female labour force worked in the construction industry, compared to 11.3% of men. The manufacturing sector employed 5.9 % of employed women, compared to 18.5 % of men (see Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Re-Evaluating Employment Equity: A Brief to the Special House of Commons Committee on the Review of the Employment Equity Act (Ottawa: 1992) at 4). As a result, women working in these fields can be isolated in a mostly-male workplace. The men seem to be threatened by women entering these new fields. As a woman maintenance worker said, "You get
    harassed because the men don't want you to work there -- they don't make a secret out of it." Quoted in A. Duffy, "Nine Housing Workers Charge Harassment", The Toronto Star (26 March 1992) at Al.
  13. Cited in M. Kadar, "The Union and Sexual Harassment", Canadian Dimension (June 1984) at 9.
  14. R. Sandroff, "Sexual Harassment in the Fortune 500", Working Woman (December 1988) at 69.
  15. Comite Logement Rosemont, "Discrimination, Harcelement et Harcelement Sexuel Rapport L'Enquete Femmes et Logement", (Montreal, 1986).
  16. See S. Campbell, "Chinese Women Urged to Speak Out For Rights", The Globe and Mail (23 March 1992) at A4. See also B. Rahder, ed., Why Put Up With It? Women Talking About Sexual Harassment of Tenants (Toronto: Ontario Women's Directorate, 1992).
  17. The stressful effects of workplace sexual harassment are described in G.S. Lowe, Women, Paid/Unpaid Work, and Stress (Ottawa: Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, 1989) at 30.
  18. The decision in Robichaud v. Canada (Treasury Board) (1987) 8 C.H.R.R. 680 at the Supreme Court of Canada settled this point.
  19. "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace" (1992) 7:1 The Reid Report 32.,

    Women who were surveyed were asked: "Have you yourself ever experienced some form of what you consider sexual harassment in the workplace?" and "Did you do anything about the harassment you were experiencing?". The second question was phrased in a way that suggested that "taking action" was the only way that women could "do something about it". In fact, trying to ignore the harassment is not "non-action", but is often what women decide is the best or only thing that they can do in the situation.

  20. See H. Levitt, "Legal System Ineffective on Sexual Harassment", The Toronto Star (11 May 1992) at Dl. Levitt reports that the normal delay before resolution of a human rights complaint in Ontario is six years. Unless a victim can claim general damages by proving that she was fired as a result of the harassment, she is limited to compensation for loss of dignity and mental distress. Canadian awards for such losses usually range from $250 to a few thousand dollars. Punitive damages cannot be awarded under current law.
  21. This study was conducted by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. It is cited by K.M. Grahame, "Sexual Harassment", in C. Guberman and M. Wolfe, eds., No Safe Place: Violence Against Women and Children (Toronto: The Women's Press, 1985) at 121.
  22. A Quebec study found that almost all the harassers in the study had harassed more than one woman under their authority. See D. Savoie, "Le harcelement sexuel au travail resultats de deux etudes quebecoises" (1990) 45:1 Relations Industrielles 62.
  23. See A. Aggarwal, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Butterworths, 1992) at 273-279, for a discussion of the law on this point.
Rape

"Probably the most outstanding characteristic of the act of rape is that its almost exclusively committed by men against women. For this reason we consider rape a political act committed by one group or class against another. We do not see it as an individual problem, but as a problem shared by all women." Washington DC Rape Crisis Centre

Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre immediately, transition house or women's centre. You can contact us 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We are available to accompany you to the hospital/ clinic. All of our services are free and confidential.

IYou can arrange for a rape crisis worker from Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter to meet you at either hospital 24 hours a day on call. Please call (604) 872-8212 or we can meet first at our center and go together.  You do not have to be sure that you want medical attention in order to call us. We are here to listen and to help you think through what are the best steps for you to take at this time.

We can assist you with transportation. All of our services are free of charge.

Ifyou have been sexually assaulted within the past seven days, you can go directly to the Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) Emergency Department at 920 West 10th Avenue (near Broadway and Oak) in Vancouver, B.C or to the Surrey Memorial Hospital at 13750 96 Avenue, Surrey, BC V3V 1Z2.

Ask for the Sexual Assault Service. .

The Sexual Assault Service is designed to provide prompt, sensitive and confidential care following a sexual assault.  You have choices about the medical care you receive. Having a member of our team with you during the process can help you decide what sections of the medical procedure and process are right for you at this time. Rape Relief members can be with you during the process. We can make sure that rights upheld.  You have a right to this medical care without the police, parents, social worker, family doctor or partner being informed. You are entitled to a language interpreter if required.

All care provided is at no cost. 

You do not have to have a care card in order to receive care and all of the treatment is free.

There are many free community clinics and centers that can also assist you after the initial 7 days. You can access some of this health care without having to provide a name or a health card. Please call our confidential rape crisis line to find out more information: (604) 872-8212. We can give you a list of doctors that are currently accepting patients and information on how to check what other women are saying about specific doctors.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Listed below are some of the legislation and policies in place in BC to help assist women escaping male violence. It is not a complete list.

Police and Crown Policy click here

Police release guidelines click here

Criminal Code of Canada click here

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom click here 

Crime Victim Assistance click here

Human Trafficking Guide for Law Enforcement click here

Palermo Accord United Nations Protocol on Trafficking click here

Temporary Residency Permit click here

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Feminists have argued and fought to protect women's sexual history from unnecessary use in court. We know that while sexism continues to exist, no woman will have a sexual history that is acceptable. Exposure of women's past sexual activity is used to damage a woman's credibility as a witness in court. In 1992, feminists succeeded in our work to get a rape shield law that would provide protection for women from this kind of unneccessary questioning and exposure. The law basically says that a complainant's past sexual history can't be used to imply that someone is less believable as a witness or imply that they probably consented to the sexual activity (the sexual assault) based on having done that sexual activity in the past or because she had sexual relations with the accused in the past. The law provides strict guidelines to judges for how previous sexual conduct can be used by an accused person at trial.

This law has been protected by the Supreme Court of Canada many times.

If you are going to court or thinking about making a report to police and you are worried about the use of your past sexual history in court, please consider calling us or another independent feminist rape crisis centre for further information and support.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on evidence of a complainant's sexual history
Supreme Court upholds rape-shield law October 13, 2000
Supreme Court to decide constitutionality of rape-shield law October 10, 2000

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

 

1. What happens if the accused is found guilty?
2. What punishment will a guilty person receive?

 

from Department of Justice Canada
 

1. What happens if the accused is found guilty?

Sometimes, the judge will decide on the punishment, the sentence, right away. More often, sentencing is put off for a few weeks.

A probation officer may be asked to prepare a pre-sentence report. In that case, the probation officer will speak to people who know the accused and then write up a history. Information on the accused's background -- place of birth, schooling, lifestyle and past criminal activity -- can help the judge decide the most appropriate punishment.

You may be asked to testify at a sentencing hearing. The judge may want to know what happened during the sexual assault. Were you hurt? Were you so badly hurt that you had to miss work? How long was it before you could return to your usual activities? These facts can also help the judge decide on an appropriate punishment.

In deciding on the sentence, the judge will consider whether or not the person found guilty of sexual assault has been found guilty of a crime before. If so, is there a past conviction for sexual assault? Repeat offenders are usually given a harsher punishment.

2. What punishment will a guilty person receive?

The law gives a judge a great deal of choice in deciding the most appropriate punishment for each case. Although the judge can decide on the punishment from a wide range of options, the maximum possible sentence depends on the crime.

 

 

Crime Maximum Sentence
aggravated sexual assault life in prison - max 25 years
sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or bodily harm 14 years in prison
sexual assault tried as an indictable offence 10 years in prison
sexual assault tried as a summary conviction offence* 6 months in jail and a $2,000 fine

 

 
Using these maximum punishments as a guide, a judge can decide on the length of the prison sentence. The judge can also fine the accused or insist that the person report to a probation officer regularly.
 

When the maximum punishment for a crime is 14 years in prison or longer, the minimum sentence a judge can give is an order to report to a probation officer for a set period of time. This is called a suspended sentence with probation. If an accused does not obey the probation order, the judge can give another sentence.

When the maximum penalty is less than 14 years in prison, the minimum sentence a judge can give is an absolute discharge. An absolute discharge means that the person is free to go and does not have a record for a criminal conviction.

Definitions:

The Canadian Criminal Code divides offenses into two categories: Indictable offenses and summary conviction offenses.
Indictable Offense: is the more serious criminal offense. The punishment for indictable offenses can be from two years in jail to life imprisonment.
*Summary Offense: is considered a less serious criminal offense. It carries a possible maximum punishment of six months in jail and/or a $2,000 fine

Source: ...after sexual assault...; Your guide to the criminal justice system, Department of Justice Canada, Ottawa, Ontario 1991:61-62


A note from Rape Relief

In order for someone to be found guilty of a sexual assault three things must be proved in court:

  • Occurrence - that the assault actually happened.
  • Identity - that the accused person is the one who made the attack
  • Consent - that the attack was not consensual sexual activity

For more information about these points, talk to women at your local feminist rape crisis centre.

There is more information about all of these points at this website and a more thorough explanation of consent in our FAQ section.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Consent must be clearly given every time people engage in sexual contact.

A woman has the legal right to change her mind about having sex at any point of sexual contact. If her partner does not stop at the time she changes her mind, this is sexual assault.

In 1992 a new law was passed that defines "consent" as voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity with someone. It is popularly known as the "NO MEANS NO" law.

Importantly, the law recognizes that there are certain situations that make giving true voluntary agreement questionable. Such situations include if the person wanting sex with you is in a position of trust or in a position of power or authority over you. For example, teachers or bosses have this sort of position, since they have a say over what grade you get, or if you get to keep your job or will be promoted. The law says that you are the only person who can give permission for yourself. Your boyfriend, father, husband, employer etc. cannot give permission on your behalf. The law says you have the right to stop the activity at any time and just because you agreed to one activity, (i.e. kissing) does not mean you agree to the next thing (i.e. taking your clothes off) . The law also says that you can indicate your non-agreement by what you do (your conduct). This means that a woman doesn't have to say "NO" in order to have communicated non-consent.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on consent.

Meaning of "Consent"

from the Criminal Code of Canada
 

273.1 (1) Subject to subsection (2) and subsection 265(3), "consent" means, for the purposes of sections 271, 272 and 273, the voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question.

Where no consent obtained

(2) No consent is obtained, for the purposes of sections 271, 272 and 273, where
(a) the agreement is expressed by the words or conduct of a person other than the complainant;
(b) the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity;
(c) the accused induces the complainant to engage in the activity by abusing a position of trust, power or authority;
(d) the complainant expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to engage in the activity; or
(e) the complainant, having consented to engage in sexual activity, expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to continue to engage in the activity.

Subsection (2) not limiting

(3) Nothing in subsection (2) shall be construed as limiting the circumstances in which no consent is obtained.
1992, c. 38, s. 1.

Where belief in consent not a defence

273.2 It is not a defence to a charge under section 271, 272 or 273 that the accused believed that the complainant consented to the activity that forms the subject-matter of the charge, where
(a) the accused's belief arose from the accused's
(i) self-induced intoxication, or
(ii) recklessness or wilful blindness; or
(b) the accused did not take reasonable steps, in the circumstances known to the accused at the time, to ascertain that the complainant was consenting.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Sexual assault includes unwanted vaginal, anal or oral penetration, groping/touching your body and forced kissing. There are a lot of other names used to describe sexual assault including: date or acquaintance rape, marital rape, incest and gang rape. Sexual harassment often includes some form of sexual assault. The vast majority of attacks are done by heterosexual men on women. No matter what it is called, sexual assault is an abuse of power in which men force women into violent situations against our will. It is an attempt to control women and to deny our right to control our own bodies.

Many women experience sexual assault during our lives. One woman in four will be raped sometime in her life. The attack will most often be by someone she knows (Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres). One in eight girls is sexually assaulted before the age of 18, most often by a male family member (Vancouver United Way).

If you are considering using the police, you can get support and further information by calling an independent feminist rape crisis centre. If you decide not to use the police that's okay too, the majority of women who have suffered a sexual assault choose not to use the police. We will respect your decisions and maintain your confidentiality.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault Law

from the Criminal Code
October 2000

271. (1) Every one who commits a sexual assault is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months.
(2) [Repealed, R.S., 1985, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 10]
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 271; R.S., 1985, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 10; 1994, c. 44, s. 19.

Sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm

272. (1) Every person commits an offence who, in committing a sexual assault,
(a) carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation of a weapon;
(b) threatens to cause bodily harm to a person other than the complainant;
(c) causes bodily harm to the complainant; or
(d) is a party to the offence with any other person.

Punishment

(2) Every person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and
(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 272; 1995, c. 39, s. 145.

Aggravated sexual assault

273. (1) Every one commits an aggravated sexual assault who, in committing a sexual assault, wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.

Aggravated sexual assault

(2) Every person who commits an aggravated sexual assault is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and
(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for life.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

 

This is one of the myths perpetuated about rape. In fact, she can. Read this article to learn about the many myths and facts about rape.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

 

A rapist may look like an ordinary man.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Many women are the victims of violence from their husbands or boyfriends. We know that “54% of women living with men will be struck at some time during the relationship by their partners” (CIDA). We also know that “60% of rapes, battering, and sexual assaults, take place in the home, the place women are supposed to be most safe” (Vancouver Rape Relief). This means that there are many men who use violence and it is impossible for anyone to determine which man might be violent and which man might not be violent. Each man makes this decision for himself with each encounter he has with women in his life and it is not your fault if your boyfriend or husband uses violence against you.

Violence that men use when they are in a relationship with a woman can be physical, verbal, or sexual. The following are common examples of how men use sexist violence:

  • He doesn’t want you to see friends or family or gets mad at you when you do
  • He doesn’t want you to try new activities such as, joining a women’s group, taking a new class, or getting a job.
  • He tells you how much money you can spend, or what you can spend money on.
  • He tells you what to wear, what to eat, when you can talk or how to organize your day.
  • He gets jealous and mad if you go anywhere, for example to the store, or out with friends.
  • He gets jealous and mad if you mention speaking to other men, friends, co-workers, your friend’s husband.
  • He calls you names; fat, stupid, ugly, bitch, or tells you you’re not good enough.
  • He threatens you, yells at you, swears at you.
  • He uses physical violence such as; punching, slapping, pushing, pinching, kicking, spitting, not letting you leave the house, a room, or the car.
  • He punches walls, or destroys other property.
  • He uses sexual abuse or rape- forcing you to have sex when you don’t feel like it, withholding money or favors until he gets sex.
  • He forced or pressured you into sexual acts that you’re uncomfortable with.

If your husband or boyfriend is doing any of these behaviors with you, you can call us or another feminist rape crisis center to talk to about what to do. We are available for you to talk to on our crisis line 24 hours a day. We are completely confidential and we have a transition house for women and their children who are escaping violence.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Rape drugs are nothing new. Rohypnol and GHB are only the latest drugs men rape with. Attention focuses on Rohypnol, but rapists continue to use alcohol, prescription medication, marijuana, cocaine, heroin etc. to access and incapacitate women.

Women are bombarded with warnings to modify their behaviour in order to stay safe from Rohypnol but the number of women calling our rape crisis line to report the use of drugs or alcohol as a factor in rape remains constant at about one-quarter of the reports we receive each year.

Women continue to take precautions such as: going out in groups and watching out for one another in social situations. However, the onus should not be on women to continually adjust and restrict their behaviour. A more effective prevention strategy would be for men to challenge their male friends who choose to attack women by using drugs and alcohol.

For more information read our Feminist Guide to Rape Drugs (text version) or download the pamphlet to your computer for printing.

Incest

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Listed below are some of the legislation and policies in place in BC to help assist women escaping male violence. It is not a complete list.

Police and Crown Policy click here

Police release guidelines click here

Criminal Code of Canada click here

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom click here 

Crime Victim Assistance click here

Human Trafficking Guide for Law Enforcement click here

Palermo Accord United Nations Protocol on Trafficking click here

Temporary Residency Permit click here

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Feminists have argued and fought to protect women's sexual history from unnecessary use in court. We know that while sexism continues to exist, no woman will have a sexual history that is acceptable. Exposure of women's past sexual activity is used to damage a woman's credibility as a witness in court. In 1992, feminists succeeded in our work to get a rape shield law that would provide protection for women from this kind of unneccessary questioning and exposure. The law basically says that a complainant's past sexual history can't be used to imply that someone is less believable as a witness or imply that they probably consented to the sexual activity (the sexual assault) based on having done that sexual activity in the past or because she had sexual relations with the accused in the past. The law provides strict guidelines to judges for how previous sexual conduct can be used by an accused person at trial.

This law has been protected by the Supreme Court of Canada many times.

If you are going to court or thinking about making a report to police and you are worried about the use of your past sexual history in court, please consider calling us or another independent feminist rape crisis centre for further information and support.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on evidence of a complainant's sexual history
Supreme Court upholds rape-shield law October 13, 2000
Supreme Court to decide constitutionality of rape-shield law October 10, 2000

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Consent must be clearly given every time people engage in sexual contact.

A woman has the legal right to change her mind about having sex at any point of sexual contact. If her partner does not stop at the time she changes her mind, this is sexual assault.

In 1992 a new law was passed that defines "consent" as voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity with someone. It is popularly known as the "NO MEANS NO" law.

Importantly, the law recognizes that there are certain situations that make giving true voluntary agreement questionable. Such situations include if the person wanting sex with you is in a position of trust or in a position of power or authority over you. For example, teachers or bosses have this sort of position, since they have a say over what grade you get, or if you get to keep your job or will be promoted. The law says that you are the only person who can give permission for yourself. Your boyfriend, father, husband, employer etc. cannot give permission on your behalf. The law says you have the right to stop the activity at any time and just because you agreed to one activity, (i.e. kissing) does not mean you agree to the next thing (i.e. taking your clothes off) . The law also says that you can indicate your non-agreement by what you do (your conduct). This means that a woman doesn't have to say "NO" in order to have communicated non-consent.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on consent.

Meaning of "Consent"

from the Criminal Code of Canada
 

273.1 (1) Subject to subsection (2) and subsection 265(3), "consent" means, for the purposes of sections 271, 272 and 273, the voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question.

Where no consent obtained

(2) No consent is obtained, for the purposes of sections 271, 272 and 273, where
(a) the agreement is expressed by the words or conduct of a person other than the complainant;
(b) the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity;
(c) the accused induces the complainant to engage in the activity by abusing a position of trust, power or authority;
(d) the complainant expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to engage in the activity; or
(e) the complainant, having consented to engage in sexual activity, expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to continue to engage in the activity.

Subsection (2) not limiting

(3) Nothing in subsection (2) shall be construed as limiting the circumstances in which no consent is obtained.
1992, c. 38, s. 1.

Where belief in consent not a defence

273.2 It is not a defence to a charge under section 271, 272 or 273 that the accused believed that the complainant consented to the activity that forms the subject-matter of the charge, where
(a) the accused's belief arose from the accused's
(i) self-induced intoxication, or
(ii) recklessness or wilful blindness; or
(b) the accused did not take reasonable steps, in the circumstances known to the accused at the time, to ascertain that the complainant was consenting.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Sexual assault includes unwanted vaginal, anal or oral penetration, groping/touching your body and forced kissing. There are a lot of other names used to describe sexual assault including: date or acquaintance rape, marital rape, incest and gang rape. Sexual harassment often includes some form of sexual assault. The vast majority of attacks are done by heterosexual men on women. No matter what it is called, sexual assault is an abuse of power in which men force women into violent situations against our will. It is an attempt to control women and to deny our right to control our own bodies.

Many women experience sexual assault during our lives. One woman in four will be raped sometime in her life. The attack will most often be by someone she knows (Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres). One in eight girls is sexually assaulted before the age of 18, most often by a male family member (Vancouver United Way).

If you are considering using the police, you can get support and further information by calling an independent feminist rape crisis centre. If you decide not to use the police that's okay too, the majority of women who have suffered a sexual assault choose not to use the police. We will respect your decisions and maintain your confidentiality.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault Law

from the Criminal Code
October 2000

271. (1) Every one who commits a sexual assault is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months.
(2) [Repealed, R.S., 1985, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 10]
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 271; R.S., 1985, c. 19 (3rd Supp.), s. 10; 1994, c. 44, s. 19.

Sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm

272. (1) Every person commits an offence who, in committing a sexual assault,
(a) carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation of a weapon;
(b) threatens to cause bodily harm to a person other than the complainant;
(c) causes bodily harm to the complainant; or
(d) is a party to the offence with any other person.

Punishment

(2) Every person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and
(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 272; 1995, c. 39, s. 145.

Aggravated sexual assault

273. (1) Every one commits an aggravated sexual assault who, in committing a sexual assault, wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.

Aggravated sexual assault

(2) Every person who commits an aggravated sexual assault is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and
(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for life.

Sexual Harassment

 

CACSW Fact Sheet
Sexual Harassment

by CACSW, March 1993
(The Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women)
This document is also available in PDF for easier printing (8 pages)

Sexual harassment can take many forms

Sexual harassment is sexual behaviour that is unwanted. Often the harasser is someone in a position of formal authority, but harassment occurs between co-workers or peers as well. Men are sometimes harassed, but most of the victims of harassment are women.1The harasser is almost always male.2

Sometimes the harassment is directed at a particular woman. It could be in the form of suggestive comments, pressure for sexual contact, or demands for sex in return for a job or other benefit. It can involve unwanted sexual touching or rape (both are sexual assault). Sexual harassment also happens when sexual jokes, sexist remarks, or pin-ups create a hostile and intimidating environment for women.

Sometimes the harassment is also directed at a woman's racial or cultural background, sexual orientation, disability, or other personal characteristics.3 In these cases, the woman is multiply victimized. For example, racial minority women face prejudice and discrimination on two grounds; often, their harassment involves both racism and sexism.

Sexual harassment of women is widespread

Virtually every woman has experienced street harassment - whistles, sexual remarks, or touching by strangers in public places.4

Women also contend with unwanted sexual advances at work or school. In a recent national poll, more than 1/3 of the women who had worked outside the home said that they had been sexually harassed on the job.5 Surveys of students at Canadian universities have found that about half of the women respondents have experienced some kind of sexual harassment on campus.6 It also happens in other situations: women have reported sexual abuse by their doctors,7 therapists,8 lawyers,9 landlords, and neighbours.10

Sexual harassment is about power, not about sex

It is an abuse of power, the social and economic power that men hold over women. When men use their power to treat women sexually in a non-sexual context, they interfere with women's right to work, to learn, to walk on the street without fear, and to be treated as equal and respected participants in public life. Like other kinds of woman abuse, sexual harassment both reflects and reinforces women's unequal position in our society.

Workplace harassment reflects women's economic inequality

Despite laws against discrimination in the workplace, women generally remain in poorly paid, lower status, and less secure jobs. More than twice as many women as men work in clerical, sales, and service occupations.11 Women continue to be under-represented in managerial and leadership positions in our economy.

When women do enter non-traditional fields -- whether blue-collar or professional -- they may face harassment from hostile male co workers.12 Over 90% of women who responded to a "Women In Trades" survey said that they had been sexually harassed.13 A study of large U.S. corporations found that the highest rates of sexual harassment complaints are at companies with the lowest percentage of women workers.14

Poverty, race, language, and other barriers also put women at risk

Being at risk economically can be aggravated by other social differences. In a Montreal study of sexual discrimination against women tenants by landlords and neighbours, single mothers and women on welfare reported the highest levels of sexual harassment.15 Immigrant women, who often occupy the most low paying and least secure positions in the work force, may lack the support groups and language skills that are necessary to confront harassment.16

Sexual harassment can have serious consequences

Not all women react the same way, but many women feel degraded and humiliated by sexual harassment. Some women feel confused. They question their own feelings and reactions, before they realize that the harasser is responsible for the problem. They are angry, anxious, and, if the harassment persists, may become depressed and demoralized.

The emotional strain can cause physical illnesses such as nausea, headaches, and fatigue. It can affect a woman's personal life, and the quality of her work.17 She may be fired, or forced to leave her job or school program to avoid the harasser. Loss of self-confidence, health problems, unfair evaluations, poor references, and a disrupted work record can have a long-term economic impact, such as not being able to find another job.

Sexual harassment is against the law

Canadian law prohibits sexual harassment. Federal, provincial, and territorial human rights commissions are responsible for investigating and resolving harassment complaints. Employers have been held accountable for sexual harassment in the workplace.18 As a result, many large companies, unions, universities, professional bodies, and other institutions have adopted their own policies against sexual harassment.

Yet many women still feel they have few options

Only 4 of every 10 Canadian women who suffer sexual harassment at work take any formal action. Only one out of every two women believe that a complaint would be taken seriously in their workplace.19

Often, women who report harassment are not believed, are discredited, or are even blamed for the problem by their colleagues. As well, the harasser may retaliate. Legal action is slow, stressful, and expensive; and awards are usually small.20 Publicity surrounding a complaint may hurt a woman's job prospects and personal life. Few women can afford to take these risks.

The real solution is equality for women

Human rights agencies should be made more effective and accessible, and should provide better compensation to women who are sexually harassed. But human rights law by itself cannot end sexual harassment. The fundamental solution to sexual harassment is social, economic, and political equality for women.

What you can do

Speak out! Raise the issue of harassment in your workplace or institution. Give a copy of this fact sheet to someone who could benefit from reading it. Support women who are harassed.

If you are harassed:

  • Remember that it's not your fault. The harasser is responsible for his own behaviour.
  • The harassment most likely won't stop if you ignore it; it may actually get worse. 21
  • Find friends or colleagues who will support you. Other women probably have been harassed by the same man.22
  • Contact a rape crisis centre or women's centre to talk to other women who understand your situation. They can help you with ideas and strategies.
  • Protect yourself by keeping a detailed written record of every incident.
  • Ask the harasser to stop - in person or in writing. Take someone with you as a witness and for support.
  • If it continues, find out about other options: Does your union, workplace, or institution have a procedure for dealing with sexual harassment complaints? Whom can you count on to support you? Is there a group of women who can act together?
  • If you lose your job or suffer other reprisals, or your complaint isn't taken seriously, get advice about filing a complaint with a human rights commission, or suing the harasser and/or his employer.
  • You are entitled to Unemployment Insurance if you are fired or leave your job because of sexual harassment. In some provinces, Worker's Compensation Boards have awarded compensation to women who have suffered stress-related disability caused by sexual harassment on the job.23
  • If you have been sexually assaulted, call a rape crisis centre. They can help you with emotional and practical support as well as information about criminal charges and other legal action.
  • Finally, remember that there isn't one right way to handle sexual harassment. Seek advice, find out about your options, and then make your own informed decision about how to proceed. Only you can know what is best for you in your own situation.

The Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women (CACSW) advises the federal government and informs the public on issues important to women, such as economic inequality and sexual violence. Through research, recommendations, advocacy, and educational activities, the CACSW brings issues to the attention of the federal government and the Canadian public, and presses the government to take action. For more information about the CACSW's work on employment equity and sexual violence, for an annotated bibliography of this fact sheet, or to order copies of this fact sheet, please contact: CACSW, Box 1541, Station B, Ottawa, Ontario, KlP 5R5, Tel: (613) 992-4975, Fax: (613) 992-1715.


Endnotes for Sexual Harassment
FACT SHEET (March 1993)

  1. A. Aggarwal, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Butterworths, 1992) at 1.
  2. Ibid.

    See also D. Savoie, "Le harcèlement sexuel au travail : résultats de deux etudes québécoises" (1990) 45:1 Relations Industrielles 62.

  3. For a detailed discussion of the kinds of behaviour considered to be sexual harassment in Canadian law, see A. Aggarwal, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Butterworths, 1992) at 7-14, and The Canadian Human Rights Commission, Harassment Casebook (Ottawa: 1991).

    Women give their own descriptions of sexual harassment in A. C. Sumrall & D. Taylor, eds., Sexual Harassment. Women Speak Out (Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1992).

  4. There has been little research into the incidence of street harassment, but June Larkin, who documented her personal experience of street harassment, reported that street harassment accounted for 60% of the harassing incidents she experienced over a four month period. See J. Larkin, "Sexual Harassment: From the Personal to the Political" (1991) 17:1 Atlantis 106.
  5. The poll was conducted by the Angus-Reid Group in October 1991, shortly after the hearings on Clarence Thomas' nomination to the United States Supreme Court, which, because of Anita Hill's testimony, focused public attention on the issue of sexual harassment.

    See "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace" (1992) 7:1 7he Reid Report 32.

    Other research suggests that this figure is probably low, because women may not recognize that what has happened to them is sexual harassment. In a national survey conducted in 1981 for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, 57% of the women who reported that they had experienced unwanted sexual attention said that they did not think it was sexual harassment. But 115 of these women said that there were employment consequences as a result of the incident, and almost 1/4 reported that their emotional or physical condition worsened. By most definitions, these women had been sexually harassed. See The Canadian Human Rights Commission, Unwanted Sexual Attention and Sexual Harassment. Results of a Survey of Canadians (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1983).

  6. See S.A. McDaniel & E. van Roosmalen, "Sexual Harassment in Canadian Academe:
    Explorations of Power and Privilege" (1991) 17:1 Atlantis 3 at 13, and A. Burger, Report on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby: British Columbia Public Interest Research Group, 1986) at 12. The former study was conducted in 1985 at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario.

    Canadian findings are consistent with the more extensive United States research. United States studies are reviewed in V.C. Rabinowitz, "Coping With Sexual Harassment", in M.A. Paludi, ed., Ivory Power. Sexual Harassment on Campus (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990) at 103; and in K.M. Grahame, "Sexual Harassment", in C. Guberman and M. Wolfe, eds., No Safe Place: Violence Against Women and Children (Toronto: The Women's Press, 1985) at 117.

  7. A recent study found that 8% of Ontario women reported sexual harassment or abuse by doctors. This Canadian study, and the results of U.S. research, are discussed in M. McPhedran et al., 7he Final Report of the Task Force on Sexual Abuse of Patients (Toronto: The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, November 25, 1991) at 13.
  8. Ibid.

    See also S. Penfold, "Sexual Abuse Between Therapist and Woman Patient" (1989) 8:4 Canadian Woman Studies 29.

  9. P. Kulig, "LSUC to Study Compensating Victims of Sexual Assault", The Law Times (22 October 199 1) 1.
  10. S. Novac, "Sexual Harassment of Women Tenants" (1990) 11:2 Canadian Women's Studies 58; B. Rahder, ed., Why Put Up With It? Women Talking About Sexual Harassment of Tenants (Toronto: Ontario Women's Directorate, 1992); S. Novac, The Security of Her Person: Tenants' Experiences of Sexual Harassment (Toronto: Ontario Women's Directorate, forthcoming).

    See also R. Cahan, "Home is No Haven: an Analysis of Sexual Harassment in Housing" (1987) Wisconsin Law Review 1061 for U.S. research on this problem.

    For a case report, see "Victim Fails to Show, Man Still Found Guilty", Me Ottawa Citizen (23 April 1992) at B9.

  11. In 1990, 56.6% of women in the paid labour force worked at these kind of jobs, compared to 25.6% of men.

    Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Re-Evaluating Employment Equity: A Brief to the Special House of Commons Committee on the Review of the Employment Equity Act (Ottawa: 1992) at 4.

  12. Many sectors of the economy are still dominated by men. In 1990 only 0. 3 % of the female labour force worked in the construction industry, compared to 11.3% of men. The manufacturing sector employed 5.9 % of employed women, compared to 18.5 % of men (see Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Re-Evaluating Employment Equity: A Brief to the Special House of Commons Committee on the Review of the Employment Equity Act (Ottawa: 1992) at 4). As a result, women working in these fields can be isolated in a mostly-male workplace. The men seem to be threatened by women entering these new fields. As a woman maintenance worker said, "You get
    harassed because the men don't want you to work there -- they don't make a secret out of it." Quoted in A. Duffy, "Nine Housing Workers Charge Harassment", The Toronto Star (26 March 1992) at Al.
  13. Cited in M. Kadar, "The Union and Sexual Harassment", Canadian Dimension (June 1984) at 9.
  14. R. Sandroff, "Sexual Harassment in the Fortune 500", Working Woman (December 1988) at 69.
  15. Comite Logement Rosemont, "Discrimination, Harcelement et Harcelement Sexuel Rapport L'Enquete Femmes et Logement", (Montreal, 1986).
  16. See S. Campbell, "Chinese Women Urged to Speak Out For Rights", The Globe and Mail (23 March 1992) at A4. See also B. Rahder, ed., Why Put Up With It? Women Talking About Sexual Harassment of Tenants (Toronto: Ontario Women's Directorate, 1992).
  17. The stressful effects of workplace sexual harassment are described in G.S. Lowe, Women, Paid/Unpaid Work, and Stress (Ottawa: Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, 1989) at 30.
  18. The decision in Robichaud v. Canada (Treasury Board) (1987) 8 C.H.R.R. 680 at the Supreme Court of Canada settled this point.
  19. "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace" (1992) 7:1 The Reid Report 32.,

    Women who were surveyed were asked: "Have you yourself ever experienced some form of what you consider sexual harassment in the workplace?" and "Did you do anything about the harassment you were experiencing?". The second question was phrased in a way that suggested that "taking action" was the only way that women could "do something about it". In fact, trying to ignore the harassment is not "non-action", but is often what women decide is the best or only thing that they can do in the situation.

  20. See H. Levitt, "Legal System Ineffective on Sexual Harassment", The Toronto Star (11 May 1992) at Dl. Levitt reports that the normal delay before resolution of a human rights complaint in Ontario is six years. Unless a victim can claim general damages by proving that she was fired as a result of the harassment, she is limited to compensation for loss of dignity and mental distress. Canadian awards for such losses usually range from $250 to a few thousand dollars. Punitive damages cannot be awarded under current law.
  21. This study was conducted by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. It is cited by K.M. Grahame, "Sexual Harassment", in C. Guberman and M. Wolfe, eds., No Safe Place: Violence Against Women and Children (Toronto: The Women's Press, 1985) at 121.
  22. A Quebec study found that almost all the harassers in the study had harassed more than one woman under their authority. See D. Savoie, "Le harcelement sexuel au travail resultats de deux etudes quebecoises" (1990) 45:1 Relations Industrielles 62.
  23. See A. Aggarwal, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Butterworths, 1992) at 273-279, for a discussion of the law on this point.
Wife Assault and Battery

Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre immediately, transition house or women's centre. You can contact us 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We are available to accompany you to the hospital/ clinic. All of our services are free and confidential.

IYou can arrange for a rape crisis worker from Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter to meet you at either hospital 24 hours a day on call. Please call (604) 872-8212 or we can meet first at our center and go together.  You do not have to be sure that you want medical attention in order to call us. We are here to listen and to help you think through what are the best steps for you to take at this time.

We can assist you with transportation. All of our services are free of charge.

Ifyou have been sexually assaulted within the past seven days, you can go directly to the Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) Emergency Department at 920 West 10th Avenue (near Broadway and Oak) in Vancouver, B.C or to the Surrey Memorial Hospital at 13750 96 Avenue, Surrey, BC V3V 1Z2.

Ask for the Sexual Assault Service. .

The Sexual Assault Service is designed to provide prompt, sensitive and confidential care following a sexual assault.  You have choices about the medical care you receive. Having a member of our team with you during the process can help you decide what sections of the medical procedure and process are right for you at this time. Rape Relief members can be with you during the process. We can make sure that rights upheld.  You have a right to this medical care without the police, parents, social worker, family doctor or partner being informed. You are entitled to a language interpreter if required.

All care provided is at no cost. 

You do not have to have a care card in order to receive care and all of the treatment is free.

There are many free community clinics and centers that can also assist you after the initial 7 days. You can access some of this health care without having to provide a name or a health card. Please call our confidential rape crisis line to find out more information: (604) 872-8212. We can give you a list of doctors that are currently accepting patients and information on how to check what other women are saying about specific doctors.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Exclusive Occupancy of the Family Home

The Family Relations Act does not specify what a judge should consider in making a decision about exclusive occupancy. However, case law has established that the spouse who wants such an order must show that sharing the home with the other spouse is a practical impossibility. Violent conduct by the other spouse may show the required practical impossibility....

Where there is a risk of future violence, [you] may ask for an order under s. 126 prohibiting contact, and an exclusive occupancy order under s. 124 at the same time, for a greater measure of protection. The combined orders are meant to ensure that the family home is safer

You can apply for "restraining orders; either to prevent harassment (s. 37), or to prohibit contact (s. 38, s. 126). Restraining orders under ss. 37 and 38 can be made with or without notice to the other person. Without notice orders can be granted in cases of urgency, including where the location of the other person is unknown or if the fact of giving notice itself may lead to violence.

Orders made under ss. 37 and 38 authorize the police to arrest the other person if he or she violates the terms of the restraining order. Both ss. 37 and 38 allow a judge to require the person named in the order to put up money that will be forfeited if the person fails to obey the order, or to require the person to report to a designated person for a period of time set by the judge. In addition, under s. 38, a judge may require the person to deposit documents, such as a passport, with a designated person, or transfer specific property to a trustee on specified terms and conditions. An order to transfer property may only be made by a Supreme Court judge.

Section 126 allows a judge to make an order prohibiting one person from entering a place occupied by another person or a child in that person’s custody. This is similar to one of the orders available under s. 38, but s. 126 applies only to separated spouses, regardless of whether or not they have children.

At the end of the day the order is only as good as your husband obeys it and the indvidual police officer who enforces it. You may find police are reluctant to take action against your ex partner. You may have to advocate for yourself. If you have trouble with this you can call us to be with you and support you. If your husband continues to harrass you and threaten you there are shelters for you and your family to go to. Please refer to the section of the website marked - escape an abusive man or help a friend.  

This information was adapted from Chapter 9 of Ministry of Attorney General  Justice Services Branch  Civil and Family Law Policy Office  Family Relations Act Review Discussion Paper  Prepared by the Civil and Family Law Policy Office April 2007

Please call Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter to talk more about your specific case. We can schedule an appointment with our free legal clinic. (604) 872-8212

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Listed below are some of the legislation and policies in place in BC to help assist women escaping male violence. It is not a complete list.

Police and Crown Policy click here

Police release guidelines click here

Criminal Code of Canada click here

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom click here 

Crime Victim Assistance click here

Human Trafficking Guide for Law Enforcement click here

Palermo Accord United Nations Protocol on Trafficking click here

Temporary Residency Permit click here

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Feminists have argued and fought to protect women's sexual history from unnecessary use in court. We know that while sexism continues to exist, no woman will have a sexual history that is acceptable. Exposure of women's past sexual activity is used to damage a woman's credibility as a witness in court. In 1992, feminists succeeded in our work to get a rape shield law that would provide protection for women from this kind of unneccessary questioning and exposure. The law basically says that a complainant's past sexual history can't be used to imply that someone is less believable as a witness or imply that they probably consented to the sexual activity (the sexual assault) based on having done that sexual activity in the past or because she had sexual relations with the accused in the past. The law provides strict guidelines to judges for how previous sexual conduct can be used by an accused person at trial.

This law has been protected by the Supreme Court of Canada many times.

If you are going to court or thinking about making a report to police and you are worried about the use of your past sexual history in court, please consider calling us or another independent feminist rape crisis centre for further information and support.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on evidence of a complainant's sexual history
Supreme Court upholds rape-shield law October 13, 2000
Supreme Court to decide constitutionality of rape-shield law October 10, 2000

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

NO. When someone breaks the law by assaulting or threatening they have committed an offense against the public. The police have the publically assigned responsibility to arrest and recommend charges when they suspect that the law has been broken. When you make a statement to the police about an assault or a threat of assault, it is their responsibility to investigate swiftly and thoroughly and to proceed effectively. It is not up to the victim whether charges are to be laid or not, nor whether someone is to be arrested or not.

Call a rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre if you need advocacy to get the police to take your complaint seriously!

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

 

This is one of the myths perpetuated about rape. In fact, she can. Read this article to learn about the many myths and facts about rape.

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Many women are the victims of violence from their husbands or boyfriends. We know that “54% of women living with men will be struck at some time during the relationship by their partners” (CIDA). We also know that “60% of rapes, battering, and sexual assaults, take place in the home, the place women are supposed to be most safe” (Vancouver Rape Relief). This means that there are many men who use violence and it is impossible for anyone to determine which man might be violent and which man might not be violent. Each man makes this decision for himself with each encounter he has with women in his life and it is not your fault if your boyfriend or husband uses violence against you.

Violence that men use when they are in a relationship with a woman can be physical, verbal, or sexual. The following are common examples of how men use sexist violence:

  • He doesn’t want you to see friends or family or gets mad at you when you do
  • He doesn’t want you to try new activities such as, joining a women’s group, taking a new class, or getting a job.
  • He tells you how much money you can spend, or what you can spend money on.
  • He tells you what to wear, what to eat, when you can talk or how to organize your day.
  • He gets jealous and mad if you go anywhere, for example to the store, or out with friends.
  • He gets jealous and mad if you mention speaking to other men, friends, co-workers, your friend’s husband.
  • He calls you names; fat, stupid, ugly, bitch, or tells you you’re not good enough.
  • He threatens you, yells at you, swears at you.
  • He uses physical violence such as; punching, slapping, pushing, pinching, kicking, spitting, not letting you leave the house, a room, or the car.
  • He punches walls, or destroys other property.
  • He uses sexual abuse or rape- forcing you to have sex when you don’t feel like it, withholding money or favors until he gets sex.
  • He forced or pressured you into sexual acts that you’re uncomfortable with.

If your husband or boyfriend is doing any of these behaviors with you, you can call us or another feminist rape crisis center to talk to about what to do. We are available for you to talk to on our crisis line 24 hours a day. We are completely confidential and we have a transition house for women and their children who are escaping violence.

Prostitution and Trafficking

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Listed below are some of the legislation and policies in place in BC to help assist women escaping male violence. It is not a complete list.

Police and Crown Policy click here

Police release guidelines click here

Criminal Code of Canada click here

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom click here 

Crime Victim Assistance click here

Human Trafficking Guide for Law Enforcement click here

Palermo Accord United Nations Protocol on Trafficking click here

Temporary Residency Permit click here

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Feminists have argued and fought to protect women's sexual history from unnecessary use in court. We know that while sexism continues to exist, no woman will have a sexual history that is acceptable. Exposure of women's past sexual activity is used to damage a woman's credibility as a witness in court. In 1992, feminists succeeded in our work to get a rape shield law that would provide protection for women from this kind of unneccessary questioning and exposure. The law basically says that a complainant's past sexual history can't be used to imply that someone is less believable as a witness or imply that they probably consented to the sexual activity (the sexual assault) based on having done that sexual activity in the past or because she had sexual relations with the accused in the past. The law provides strict guidelines to judges for how previous sexual conduct can be used by an accused person at trial.

This law has been protected by the Supreme Court of Canada many times.

If you are going to court or thinking about making a report to police and you are worried about the use of your past sexual history in court, please consider calling us or another independent feminist rape crisis centre for further information and support.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on evidence of a complainant's sexual history
Supreme Court upholds rape-shield law October 13, 2000
Supreme Court to decide constitutionality of rape-shield law October 10, 2000

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

 

1. What happens if the accused is found guilty?
2. What punishment will a guilty person receive?

 

from Department of Justice Canada
 

1. What happens if the accused is found guilty?

Sometimes, the judge will decide on the punishment, the sentence, right away. More often, sentencing is put off for a few weeks.

A probation officer may be asked to prepare a pre-sentence report. In that case, the probation officer will speak to people who know the accused and then write up a history. Information on the accused's background -- place of birth, schooling, lifestyle and past criminal activity -- can help the judge decide the most appropriate punishment.

You may be asked to testify at a sentencing hearing. The judge may want to know what happened during the sexual assault. Were you hurt? Were you so badly hurt that you had to miss work? How long was it before you could return to your usual activities? These facts can also help the judge decide on an appropriate punishment.

In deciding on the sentence, the judge will consider whether or not the person found guilty of sexual assault has been found guilty of a crime before. If so, is there a past conviction for sexual assault? Repeat offenders are usually given a harsher punishment.

2. What punishment will a guilty person receive?

The law gives a judge a great deal of choice in deciding the most appropriate punishment for each case. Although the judge can decide on the punishment from a wide range of options, the maximum possible sentence depends on the crime.

 

 

Crime Maximum Sentence
aggravated sexual assault life in prison - max 25 years
sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or bodily harm 14 years in prison
sexual assault tried as an indictable offence 10 years in prison
sexual assault tried as a summary conviction offence* 6 months in jail and a $2,000 fine

 

 
Using these maximum punishments as a guide, a judge can decide on the length of the prison sentence. The judge can also fine the accused or insist that the person report to a probation officer regularly.
 

When the maximum punishment for a crime is 14 years in prison or longer, the minimum sentence a judge can give is an order to report to a probation officer for a set period of time. This is called a suspended sentence with probation. If an accused does not obey the probation order, the judge can give another sentence.

When the maximum penalty is less than 14 years in prison, the minimum sentence a judge can give is an absolute discharge. An absolute discharge means that the person is free to go and does not have a record for a criminal conviction.

Definitions:

The Canadian Criminal Code divides offenses into two categories: Indictable offenses and summary conviction offenses.
Indictable Offense: is the more serious criminal offense. The punishment for indictable offenses can be from two years in jail to life imprisonment.
*Summary Offense: is considered a less serious criminal offense. It carries a possible maximum punishment of six months in jail and/or a $2,000 fine

Source: ...after sexual assault...; Your guide to the criminal justice system, Department of Justice Canada, Ottawa, Ontario 1991:61-62


A note from Rape Relief

In order for someone to be found guilty of a sexual assault three things must be proved in court:

  • Occurrence - that the assault actually happened.
  • Identity - that the accused person is the one who made the attack
  • Consent - that the attack was not consensual sexual activity

For more information about these points, talk to women at your local feminist rape crisis centre.

There is more information about all of these points at this website and a more thorough explanation of consent in our FAQ section.