Choices Avenues for Legal Action Against a Sex Abuser

What are your Legal Options if you have been Sexually Assaulted? There are four primary routes you can take if your child, or you, have been sexually assaulted. These options are not mutually exclusive. Many victims pursue 2 or 3 of these options.

A lawyer can help you make the right choice, or choices, for you. (A) You can call the police. If you call the police, they will likely interview you. These interviews are often videotaped. You may also make a written statement. If the police gather enough evidence, they can, and probably will, charge the person who assaulted you.

There are a variety of charges available, but the most common is sexual assault. Sometimes the abuser is charged and convicted even decades after the abuse took place, so don't let the amount of time that has past be a deterrent. You don't need a lawyer for this process. An assistant crown attorney (a government lawyer) will run the case, with the assistance of the police.

Most courts have victim witness assistance programs to help you prepare to testify in court. The tough part about a criminal trial from the victim's perspective is that the assistant crown attorney will have to prove that the assault happened "beyond a reasonable doubt". This can be difficult because there are often no independent witnesses. The Crown will have to prove that you did not agree to have sex with the abuser.

Consent is not usually an issue for a child victim or a incest victim. However, in situations between an adult man and an adult woman it can be tricky for the crown attorney to prove that you did not consent. However, you should not be concerned just because you did not scream, fight back or shout "no". Courts know that people sometimes give in to sex because they are scared or feel they have no choice. Generally speaking your sexual history won't be relevant at a trial so you should not be asked questions about that. This is called the "rape shield" law.

However, there can be exceptions. You may be disappointed in your abuser's sentence if he is convicted. Often, the abuser will not even go to jail. The victim usually receives no compensation as part of a criminal proceeding. Nevertheless, this can be an important step to protect the public. (B) You can apply to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is an independent agency of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.

Other provinces have similar boards. Its purpose is to award financial compensation to victims of violent crimes committed in Ontario. This is a useful option if the perpetrator has no money or assets and there is no other avenue to pursue compensation. The Board Members have the discretion to make the awards.

There are 3 types of awards made by the Board, including (a) A Lump Sum Award: up to a maximum of $25,000; (b) A Periodic or Monthly Award: The maximum payment is $1,000 per month. If a lump sum and a periodic payment is made, the maximum lump sum is $12,500; (c) An Interim Award: The Board may consider making an award for expenses (medical, therapy and support) before a hearing is held. This can only be considered if the Board receives a properly completed claim package and supporting police information. Some of sexual assault victims have received funding this way to assist them to obtain therapy. How do you apply for Compensation? You can only get the forms by contacting the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board directly.

You can request forms by phone, mail or fax. The website has this information:

ca. Do you Need a Lawyer? It is not necessary to have a lawyer, but you may choose to retain one. If you have a lawyer, the Board will only correspond with that lawyer. Any information about your file must be obtained through your lawyer. The Board decides what type of hearing you will have. You can have a written hearing or an oral hearing (in person or by telephone).

(C) You can start a law suit This is often the best approach when the abuser has assets or there is an institution that is also responsible for the abuse. A law suit has its challenges. For example, you may have to be in the court room with the abuser. However, sometimes this can be avoided. You will also be asked questions by the abuser's lawyer.

This can be tough but your lawyer will carefully prepare you for the experience. On the flip side, your lawyer will be asking the abuser some very hard questions, under oath. You can seek compensation for your suffering and pain, rehab costs and past and future wage losses at a trial. While in the past the compensation for sexual assault was disappointing, the numbers are slowly creeping up. The best way to decide if a lawsuit is right for you is to speak to an experienced lawyer who practices in this area.

This is a pretty specialized niche. Don't go to the lawyer who closed your house deal for this, unless he or she can give you the name of someone up to this type of case. (D) Human Rights Commission This option is useful if the sexual assault happened when you were at work and the abuser does not have assets. However, the process is slow and, some say, ineffective. In addition, the monetary awards are typically low. You can pursue a human rights complaint without a lawyer.

However, you can and many people do. The Ontario Human Rights Commission can be contacted at 1-800-387-9080.

Richard Auger and Brenda Hollingsworth are lawyers in Ottawa who advance claims for victims of sexual assault and other similar crimes. They have written a special report called:"Vital Information Sexual Assault Victims Need When Considering their Legal Options". To get free copy of this report, contact ; email or call 613.233.4529.

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