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Following sexual abuse, the journey to healing can be challenging and complex. As you seek to reclaim your life, knowing your rights, finding answers to important questions and having a better understanding of your legal options can be an empowering step in your recovery. We encourage you to explore the information, tools and resources available here.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between sexual assault and sexual abuse?

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act. The term ‘assault’ is often used in reference to a single experience.

Sexual abuse is often used in reference to an unwanted sexual act committed by an individual in a position of power over the victim.

What is institutional sexual abuse?

Institutional sexual abuse occurs when someone uses their position of power to sexually exploit a victim. In cases of institutional sexual abuse, the power imbalance between the perpetrator and victim is amplified. Sexual abuse that occurs within institutions is often an attempt by the abuser to exert and maintain power over their victims.

What are some examples of sexual assault and abuse?

• Unwanted kissing or touching
• Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity
• Rape or attempted rape
• Refusing to use protection or restricting someone’s access to birth control
• Threatening or pressuring someone into unwanted sexual activity

Who is affected by sexual assault?

In Canada, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 8 men experience sexual violence*. Sexual assault or abuse can be inflicted on an individual of any gender, by an individual of any gender. The abuser can be the same gender as the victim.

* Source: www.ontario.ca/page/sexual-violence

What will my sexual assault case against an institution look like?

Your lawyer will begin by making a written demand to the institution for a financial settlement. This can be done even before a lawsuit is filed.

If an agreement isn’t reached, your lawyer may decide to file a Statement of Claim which begins the legal process. Both sides will then release all evidence in their possession to each other — giving both parties the ability to see the entire case against them. Cases will often settle at this point, meaning the case never goes to court.

If a settlement isn’t reached and both parties want to go to court, the case will be set for trial. In sexual assault or abuse matters, the identity of the victim is usually protected in a court setting.

At trial both parties usually take the stand to share their stories. Any other experts or witnesses might testify of the affects the assault would have had on the victim’s life at this time as well. The court will then decide if the institution is liable and determine the amount of money they owe the victim.

How often do sexual abuse cases go to trial?

According to Statistics Canada, just one in five sexual assault cases end up in court, with about one in 10 resulting in a conviction.

Please do not allow this information to stop you from seeking justice. With each new case won, support among survivors can grow. Another win might encourage another survivor to file a lawsuit against an abuser.

What if the sexual assault happened a long time ago?

There is no limitation period for reporting sexual assault. If you were the victim of sexual violence, you can choose to report at any time.

Do I have to report the sexual assault or abuse to police before talking to a lawyer?

No, you can discuss your situation with a lawyer before talking to the police. It is entirely up to you.

What if I report the sexual assault and then choose not to proceed with the case?

You are under no obligation to proceed with the case. If you report to the police and they deem that there is a risk to public safety (i.e. serial murder, prolific sex offenders), they may continue with an investigation.

How are damages are awarded in sexual abuse cases?

In personal injury cases, “damages” refer to the monetary awards injured individuals receive as compensation for the harm done to them by another party. In cases involving sexual assault or abuse, the harm done to a victim is far more than just physical — the emotional and psychological harm can be life altering.

Siskinds Personal Injury Partner Rasha El-Tawil and Siskinds Articling Student Zohra Bhimani wrote a paper outlining how Courts determine monetary damages in cases where humiliation, degradation and loss of enjoyment of life are, essentially, the injuries that the victim has sustained.

The paper also outlines how much money has been awarded to victims in various types of sexual abuse cases across the last few decades.

If you’re interested in reading the paper to learn more about how monetary damages are determined and what past settlements for sexual abuses cases have been, click here. [LINK TO PDF OF PAPER]

Further reading

To learn more about sexual assault cases, visit our blog with articles touching on various aspects of these cases written by our personal injury lawyers. [NEED TO WRITE THESE BLOG POSTS]