Sexual Assault Legal Q&A
Sexual assault victims in the Greater Toronto Area get insights about their legal situations and claims.
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Sexual assault and sexual harassment cases are often very stressful on the victim, as well as the accused, especially if they are being wrongfully accused. We understand that such a case can be embarrassing, shameful and even fearful to deal with due to its implications in your social and professional life.
The purpose of this page is to give some clarity around some of the most common legal questions people have about sexual assault. We look at what to do if you feel you’re being sexually assaulted, whether or not you need a lawsuit along with your sexual assault claim, and what kind of sensitive information you need to reveal if you pursue the claim.
PROVIDING CLARITY ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT CASES
We also receive a lot of inquiries from people who believe they are experiencing some form of sexual harassment at work, but are not sure if it’s really sexual assault when it’s only verbal or emotional. Other victims want to know if they can file a sexual assault claim that happened a long time ago. We try to provide as much clarity as we can here, but it’s always best to give us a call so we can treat your individual situation with the attention it deserves.
WORK WITH A LAWYER WHO CARES ABOUT YOUR SITUATION
We understand that you may be feeling embarrassed or even ashamed dealing with such a matter, but rest assured we’re here to help, not pass judgement. This is why we first try to give you as much free information and guidance as we can on our website, so you can take some time to think about your situation before calling us.
It’s also important for you to know that we specifically don’t go into too much detail online because every case is different, and if a sexual assault victim or wrongfully accused defendant apply specific legal advice that doesn’t fit with their unique situation, it can cause serious legal problems for them. This is why after reading everything on this page, please feel free to give us a call to talk about your specific situation, and we’ll treat you with the empathy and kindness that you deserve, while working hard to get the maximum compensation you deserve as well.
1. I believe I have been sexually assaulted. What should I do?
Gain (or regain) full control of your life:
First, protect yourself from further non-consensual sexual contact - even if it is someone you have trusted or relied upon in the past, such as your boss, a teacher, or even a minister or priest.
Second, speak to someone else you trust at this moment - a family member or a friend, or both - and tell them what happened.
Third, speak to a doctor or therapist about what you experienced and seek treatment.
Do each of these steps at your pace - each step is important. While this process may seem overwhelming, never forget that you are much more than the victim of a sexual assault. You still have much to offer yourself, those you love, and those you encounter.
2. Beyond gaining or regaining control of my life, should I also contact the police or a lawyer?
Your situation is unique. But all complainants would be wise to consider the following before making a final decision to involve police or a lawyer:
Police: The police will ask you intrusive questions about what happened. Their actions may help you but only indirectly: their primary role is to lay charges that lead to the punishment of those who break the law. You still need to be charge of helping yourself.
Consider involving the police if there is an imminent danger of another sexual assault and you don't believe you can adequately protect yourself. The police can be intimidating, so take a trusted friend or family member with you.
Lawyer: A lawyer with experience dealing in sexual assault cases will also ask you some very uncomfortable questions. But you are in charge of the answers. Make sure that the involvement of the lawyer is in tandem with your own efforts to re-establish or gain control of your life. If so, a claim for sexual assault and battery, possibly coupled with harassment, may be considered. Speak to me about these options at 416-383-0550.
3. If I bring a claim for sexual assault, do I need to sue?
Unfortunately, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is no longer accepting new claims or applications for compensation. However, you could apply for assistance and compensation through http://victimservicestoronto.com/
Another helpful link is https://news.ontario.ca/mag/en/2019/09/supports-for-victims-of-crime.html
We provide these links for your information only. Please note that we cannot guarantee that you will be deemed eligible for such assistance or that you will actually receive compensation when you apply.
Come meet with our team to discuss your options, such as retaining our team to bring a civil lawsuit.
4. If I sue for sexual assault, do I need to go to court?
Not necessarily. In fact, the clear majority of civil lawsuits are resolved with a negotiated settlement; only a small minority are resolved by a judgment from the court.
If you sue, you need to consider the possibility of ending up at trial, however remote. That is a scary thought. But if you have gained (or regained) control of your life, you can be prepared for all options, including trial. That will remove one of the best weapons for use by a defense lawyer, who typically assumes that sexual assault victims are too terrified to take the stand to pursue their claims to the end.
If you advance a civil sexual assault claim, be sure that this is part of your broader strategy of healing. It can - and will - be stressful at times. But it can also be empowering, since it is your claim. By contrast, if the police lay charges against your assailant, you then become a key witness regarding the state's case against the assailant. You can suggest, but not instruct, the state about how best to proceed.
If you gain a sufficient level of confidence to consider a civil claim for sexual assault, let's talk directly.
5. If I sue, will I have to disclose my health records and other sensitive documents?
Unfortunately, yes. As with any claim, you will be required to prove how you were harmed by the actions of the assailant. Medical records, including appointments with your family doctor or therapist, become important. These records show that you were diagnosed with health problems and sought treatment for your injuries. In some cases, they also reveal that you disclosed some details of what happened, only days or weeks after the assault occurred.
Speak to your lawyer about those records and documents you feel strongly about not disclosing. A good lawyer will resist the efforts of a defence lawyer to dig out records that are not relevant - for example, older medical records of health problems from which you have long since recovered.
6. My sexual assault occurred years ago. Is it too late to pursue a claim?
No. There is no limitation period for sexual assault and battery civil claims in virtually all situations that do not involve a stranger. You can sue for damages arising from sexual assault that occurred during childhood.
7. I was not sexually assaulted physically, but I feel that I was assaulted emotionally. Can I bring a claim for sexual assault?
It would be wise to consider a claim for sexual harassment instead of sexual assault. If this harassment occurred within an employment context, be sure to take steps to protect yourself going forward. See the first Sexual Assault and Battery FAQ above. Then give us a call at 416-383-0550.
If the harassment did not occur within an employment context, contact the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. If you decide that you wish to advance a claim, they will provide initial assistance regarding the steps needed to advance your claim. You would be wise to retain our team to represent you at the mediation or hearing of your application.