Blog post by volunteers Josh (U of T undergrad student) and Bianca (law student)
Scenario

Meet Annie: a normal 16-year old girl. She is smart, pretty, and well liked by both her peers and teachers.  And when popular jock Scott Herring asked her out, she agreed. She was nervous because she had never dated before, but was excited because Scott was very cute.

It was a Saturday evening. After promising her parents that she would return home by curfew, Scott, a senior, picked her up in his Honda Civic and drove them to a local drive-in theatre.

Upon arriving at the theatre, they found themselves surrounded by a sea of cars- and in each car a coupled pair. As the credits rolled and the movie began, Scott with his arm wrapped around her, urged her towards his body. “Let’s snuggle,” he suggested. Obliging, though awkwardly, she leaned her head on his shoulders as she had watched the heroine of the movie do the same. Yet while the heroine expressed love and happy feelings, all Annie felt was discomfort and fear.

Scott, however, had something else on his mind and with his arms still wrapped around her, began to slowly inch his hand downwards and towards her breast. He began to grope her. Annie distraught by the invasion of privacy said “Stop!” as she tried to ply his hands away. Scott continued to grope and feel.

“No!” Annie yelled, now trying to push him back so she could make a move for the door. Scott shoved her back down, gripped her firmly. Eventually, she yelled at the very top of her lungs until Scott let go and Annie ran out of the car.

What are the legal issues in this scenario?

Sexual Assault

In such a situation, Scott may be charged with sexual assault and made to attend court. In order for him to be found guilty, it must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Scott engaged in a sexual act without Annie’s consent, and intended to do so.

Consent

Consent means that a person agreed voluntarily to take part in the act. If one does not voluntarily agree, then there is no consent.

Even if one starts to take part in the sexual activity, they can decide afterwards that they don’t want to continue, meaning that there is no longer consent. After they communicate that they no longer consent, the other person(s) must stop immediately.

In Annie’s case, she yelled ‘no’ and tried to push Scott away, making it clear that she did not consent to any sexual activity with Scott. Disagreement to take part in a sexual act can be established by a person’s words or actions, or both.

Annie`s Rights

Anniehas every right to talk to the police and report the crime. The earlier you report the crime, the higher the chance that the police will be able to find relevant evidence.

The police will usually ask the victim to provide a statement and answer questions as to what happened before they investigate. If there is enough evidence, the police will produce a report recommending charges.

After going to the police, the victim has the right to receive regular updates from the police about their case and ask for special measures so they do not have to see the defendant if they are intimidated or vulnerable.

It is very common for a person in who goes through such an experience to experience a variety of different emotions, such as embarrassment, anger or shame. But a person in Annie’s situation should know that she or he is not alone as there are a variety of resources available to help deal with their feelings and offer advice:

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

Assaulted Women’s Helpline: (416)863-0511, outside GTA: 1-866-863-0511

Justice for Children and Youth: (416) 920-1633, 1-866-999-5329 (outside GTA)


Scott`s Rights

Because Scott is under age 18, he must be dealt with under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. He has the right to have his parent present when being questioned by the police.  He has the right to a lawyer.  He has the right to silence.

For more information on charges and procedure under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, check out these resources:

If you are young person in Ontario and you need a lawyer to represent you, call Legal Aid Ontario: (416)598-0200, 1-800-668-8258 (outside GTA), or Justice for Children and Youth (416) 920-1633, 1-866-999-5329 (outside GTA)

 For further reading on issues relating to sexual assault and youth, see these links: