rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Rape survivor fined for violating publication ban on her name

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Person sits in shadow. Image credit: Ashley Byrd/Unsplash

A sexual assault survivor in Waterloo Region was recently charged and fined for violating the publication ban on her own name. The rapist found guilty of sexually assaulting the woman became aware that she had shared transcripts of the trial with friends and family without redacting her own name beforehand.

The rapist contacted police who then charged the woman. In court she pleaded guilty to breaching the publication ban on her own name and was fined $2,000 plus an additional $600 victim surcharge by Ontario Court Justice Thomas McKay.

Deb Singh, chair of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC), would like to know: "What's the usefulness of charging her? What was this law's purpose? If it's to protect a victim's identity, then a victim is allowed to share if they so choose, especially when it wasn't in a public circle."

According to the OCRCC, decisions like this one perpetuate the inherent lack of justice sexual assault survivors face. It also reinforces a retaliatory approach to sexual violence for survivors who use the criminal justice system.

When sexual assault survivors contemplate reporting to police, most face the prospect of not being believed. Myths include sexual assault victims falsely accuse innocent people out of shame or to exact revenge.

The reality is, overwhelmingly, claims of sexual assault are true. Somewhere between two to eight per cent of claims prove to be false. That means, 92 to 98 per cent of all claims are true.

According to Statistics Canada, the majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the victim and the assaults usually take place in a home -- often the survivor's home -- or a business.

There are 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada every year. Yet, only 33 out of every 1,000 are reported to police. Only 29 are actually recorded as a crime. Of the 12 cases that result in charges being laid, six are prosecuted and a mere three are convicted. That means for every 1,000 rapes, 997 rapists are never held accountable for their actions. Another way to look at it is that the criminal justice system has a 0.003 per cent success rate.

Abysmal criminal justice outcomes are compounded by additional layers of harm metered out by a systemically racist and misogynous justice system to Indigenous women, Black women, immigrant and refugee women, sex workers and 2SLGBTQ+ individuals.

Fining sexual assault survivors for breaching publication bans in their own sexual assault trials is yet another layer that effectively takes away the survivor's agency while silencing their voice.

The fact that this survivor should have appealed to the court to lift the ban on her own name before sharing court transcripts with friends and family enabled her rapist to exact revenge and inflict more trauma.

While the intentions behind the publication ban legislation have merit, these intentions were lost through rote legal application as outlined in Ontario Court Justice Thomas McKay's decision that stated in part: "Court orders have to be followed, particularly ones that deal with people's privacy."

Clearly training and advocacy needs to be implemented for judges, Crown attorneys and police -- all of whom make decisions on sexual assault cases that can either lead to system improvements with improved survivor outcomes or system failures resulting in survivor re-victimization and re-traumatization.

The OCRCC recommends that survivor experiences of the criminal justice system and the real purpose of sexual offence publication bans be taken into consideration in cases such as this because a survivor should never be charged with violating their own ban.

To find the sexual assault centre in your community click here.

OCRCC is a network of community-based sexual assault centres in Ontario. Services include counselling to survivors of recent and historical sexual violence, accompaniment to hospital, police and court, advocacy and crisis support.

Doreen Nicoll is a freelance writer, teacher, social activist and member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.

Image credit: Ashley Byrd/Unsplash

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.