Currently, sexual assault is a burning problem all over the world including Canada. Sexual assault is defined as an unwanted sexual contact, in which a person is threatened, forced or coerced to engage. It includes forced kissing, rape, child sexual abuse, and torture of the victim in various sexual manners. Crime statics shows that less than 20 percent sexual assaults are committed by strangers, whereas 80 percent of such cases are committed by someone who is a friend, neighbor, or relative of the victim. In almost 70 percent of the cases of sexual assault, the victim is a woman, and in close to 90 percent cases the perpetrator is male. In most of the cases, young people are the victims compared to the older people. For instance, people who are aged 15-24 are almost twice likely to be sexually assaulted by someone than people who are 25-34 years old. Sexual assault is a statutory offense in legal terms in Canada, United States, England, Ireland etc (SOGC, 2012).
All over the world, sexual assault is considered a terrible crime with severe consequences. Such assaults may cause a life-long damage to the victim and can cause depression and anxiety. It can also destroy self-esteem of the victim. If the victim suffers assaults and abuses on a regular basis, then the situation may become even worse. Sexual abuse makes an individual feel weak, scared, and worthless. In some situations, sex happens during dates, when one dating partner forces unwanted sexual acts on the other partner. Such cases are quite common among the young generation. So, parents should be careful with their childrens activities and they should strictly warn their children not take alcoholic beverages or drugs while on a date (SOGC, 2012).
According to the criminal law of Canada, sexual assault is defined as a sexual contact with another person without that persons consent. Consent of a person is defined in the Section 273.1(1) as a voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in any sexual activity. Canadian law discusses the offenses of assaults and sexual assaults in Section 265, in Section 271 criminalizes sexual assaults, and in Section 272 criminalizes sexual assaults with the use of different weapons. Section 273 criminalizes aggravated sexual assaults (SOGC, 2012).
The main characteristic that defines sexual assault is the absence of consent. Canadian law defines consent in Section 273.1 (1), while Section 273.1(2) outlines different circumstances and no consent situations. Whereas, Section 273.1 (3) describes what constitutes sexual assault, the subsection (2) states different circumstances, which define the act as non-consensual. However, some other situations, which are not described in this section, may also define the act as committing sexual assault without consent. No consent to sexual assault is related to Section 265 (3). This section outlines different situations where the act is considered non-consensual. Canadian Supreme Court interpreted some provisions in 2011. According to the new provisions, the victim must have a clear mind during the sexual act to provide consent, however, they cannot give consent in advance. Especially, no consent is obtained when the complainant does not resist because of the application of forceful harassment to the person other than complainant (SOGC, 2012).
Aspects of Criminal Law in Canada
In our society, most people assume that sexual assault is similar to rape. But in reality it has different forms. Canadian government has categorized sexual assault in three different levels or categories, which are discussed further.
Sexual Assault Level 1
In this level, the Federal Government has categorized different assaults, such as touching, kissing, vaginal, or anal intercourse ,or oral sex etc. as sexual assault, if the offender has forced another person to do so. Level 1 sexual assault involves no physical injuries or sometimes minor injuries to the victim. If a person is forced into sexual activity against his or her will by a friend, family member, relative, or relationship partner then he or she can report the case to the police, and it will be considered as level 1 sexual assault case. Such kinds of assaults are punishable by the Canadian law and offenders get up to 10 years in prison (SOGC, 2012).
Sexual Assault Level 2
If the perpetrator uses some kinds of weapons or threatens to harm victims family or friends or causes physical harm to the third party, then such crimes are considered as the level 2 sexual assault. Conviction of such kind of sexual assault is punishable by Canadian government by 14 years in prison (SOGC, 2012).
Sexual Assault Level 3
Level 3 consists of most severe crimes related to sexual assault. If the sexual assault results in maiming, disfiguring, wounding, or endangering the life of the victim, then such kind of crimes are considered to be level 3 sexual assault crime. Offenders of such crimes may suffer the highest measure of life-long sentence in prison (SOGC, 2012).
Additional Points about the Laws of Sexual Assault
Canadian sexual assault laws are different from other laws of Canada because sexual assault crimes do not have statute of limitations. Therefore, a victim may report the case to the police even after a couple of years after the incident. In such cases, criminal charges can be laid after any time period. For different cases of level 1 assault, the issue of consent is of primary importance. According to the law, an individual cannot consent to have sex if he or she is drunk, unconscious, asleep, or under the influence of drugs (SOGC, 2012).
The law of sexual assault is gender neutral, so both men and women can be the victims and they may be charged with different sexual assaults. It is remarkable that a husband may be charged with sexual assault against his wife according to Canadian law.
An individual can be charged with sexual assault if he or she is HIV positive and he or she is not disclosing it to his/her partner before sex. Research shows that about 20,000 of sexual assault cases are reported to the federal police of Canada every year. However, experts believe that many cases are not reported, so the number of such cases must be higher. According to a survey data, over 500,000 Canadians suffer from sexual assaults every year. Also, it is remarkable that if an individual who is under 16 is being neglected or physically, sexually or emotionally abused, then any individual who is aware of the fact may report to the police or Ministry of Children and Families about the situation, which may help police find the culprit and protect the victim (SOGC, 2012).
Crown Prosecution Service (CPS.) looks after the cases of sexual assault. After the case is forwarded to the Magistrates of Crown Court, Criminal Injuries Compensation Authorities research the case. Upon receiving the case from police, CPS determines if the evidence is admissible and substantial in court. Considerations are given after checking how the sexually abused person is standing up to cross the examination. After the examination, serious sexual assault cases go to Crown Court. However, in the first step alleged offenders appear at the magistrates court where the judge decides if the alleged offender will be kept in the custody or allowed to bail (SOGC, 2012).
Steps Taken by Different Countries including Canada Against Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is considered to be a statutory offence in different jurisdictions including those of Canada, United States, England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. Different countries have created specific laws to prevent and control unwanted sexual contacts. Research shows that during the last fifteen years, the issue of sexual assault is increasing in the institutions of the United States, Canada, and other countries of North America. So the Federal Government of the US and Canada is giving special attention to the publicized campus sexual assault trails, which are mishandled by the local administration including school authorities. Research shows that the chances of being a victim of sexual harassment are four times higher for a female college student comparing to other age groups of students. In response to the public demand, the Federal Government has mandated that schools, colleges, and other institutions of higher education grapple with strict responds to the issues of rape and other sexual harassment cases. For instance, in 1990, US Government passed the Students Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act, which helps to disclose several crime statics. It also increases students' awareness about crime prevention laws and security policies and procedures in the institution. The Federal Government has modified different laws connected with sexual assaults in the following years. For instance, in 1992 US Government announced basic victim-specific rights. In 1998 it passed Clery act, which emphasizes reporting different obligations connected with sexual assault in institutions (Stopvaw, 2010).
Assault and Sexual Assault
Assault and sexual assaults are quite similar terms. However, assault may be related to any intention to create a reasonable apprehension of harm by instilling fear in another person. For instance, if a person pulls his fist back to punch and the other person believes that he will be punched, then such case may be considered as an assault. Sexual assault is connected with the assault to perform sexual activities forcefully with an individual who has not given the consent.
In assault case, the harm can actually be either physical or a threat to harm, e.g. a kick, punch etc. On the other hand, sexual assault may include forcefully kissing, groping, rape etc. Nevertheless, in both cases, legal definition defines that it is not actually necessary to physically strike or harm someone in order to be guilty of an assault or sexual assault.
Recently, several cases of sexual assault have become remarkable in Canada. For instance, in the summer of 2012, a woman was sexually assaulted by unknown man in Heron Park. In August 2012, an 18 year old girl was violently attacked by a man in Greenbank Area. The third case was reported in June, 2013, when a young woman was leaving the gym in the evening and was attacked from the back. However, police has already released a composite drawing of the suspect of those two cases. In Ottawa, police authorities said that these three cases are linked with each other, and the suspect maybe the same person in three cases. Currently, Federal Government of Canada has involved additional detectives to solve this sexual assault issue (CBC, 2013).
So, from above discussion it is possible to conclude that sexual assault is one of the most violent crimes in the world. Police and federal government agencies of respective countries should act effectively in such cases so that they could protect innocent inhabitants of the country. Authorities in schools and other higher education institutions should teach students about the harms of sexual assaults and strictly take actions in any crimes concerning the assaults. Nevertheless, parents should teach their children to protect themselves in certain situations so that they will not become victims of sexual assaults. In this way, it is possible to create a society free from sexual abuse and any other assaults.