CRIMINAL | Evidence That Rape Myths Still Prevalent in Court in 2021.

AuthorIzadi, Melody

Despite a social-conscious awakening, one trial proves archaic rape myths still exist.

A much-needed push against old-think myths and stereotypes of sexual assault victims led to a revamp of the Criminal Code. The changes updated when and how prior sexual activity of a complainant can be used in court. It took many generations and a consorted effort amongst feminists, lobbyists and victims of sexual abuse to convince many that, for example, a sex trade worker can be sexually assaulted. It was an almost novel and frustrating concept that some thought just because a complainant is sexually active--or was sexually active yesterday or even had sex with the accused on a prior occasion--that her character was flawed. And further that she was not only lying but could never be a victim. It is almost inconceivable that this was something we had to argue about.

In tandem with this push for social change is the need to dispel with rape myths and stereotypes around how a sexual assault victim should, must, and will act. It can hardly be disputed that some may cry, some may act perfectly "normal", some may run into a police station, some may seek therapy, and some may not. In short, there is no "right" way to behave. The jurisprudence in our court system is clear: a judge cannot rely on these rape myths to assess a complainant's credibility.

There was a recent social resurgence of the need to recognize these stereotypes and myths and to disengage from them. From high-profile celebrities to one's next door neighbour, hundreds upon thousands of survivors screamed #MeToo. Survivors felt empowered to share their stories of sexual abuse, harassment and violence, and inspired others to do so without fear of repercussion.

I pause here for a moment to note that the #MeToo movement has not been all positive in terms of impact. As I have written about before, Marie Henein--a defence lawyer who is a woman of colour--faced unprecedented backlash and cruel hypocritical taunts for representing Jian Ghomeshi when he faced sexual assault charges. She was called a "traitor" to her gender for having the alleged audacity to do so. Ghomeshi was acquitted of all charges. Humbly I submit to you that the #MeToo movement cannot stand for the principle that any allegation of sexual assault must result in a verdict of guilty. That would be an irreconcilable, illogical fallacy and outcome of the intended purpose of the movement. It is still the burden of the prosecution to prove...

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