British Columbia Sexual Assault Lawyers
Any type of sexual act that takes place without the consent of all participating parties is considered sexual assault. Consent refers to the voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. In order for sexual activity to be considered consensual, all parties involved must freely and enthusiastically agree to the sexual acts in question.
In the context of sexual encounters, consent is an active, clearly-understood, and – importantly – revocable agreement. Consent should be ongoing throughout any sexual encounter. It can be withdrawn at any time during a sexual encounter. If a person is unable to give consent due to being unconscious, incapacitated, or below the age of consent, sexual activity with that person is considered sexual assault.
Sexual assault can encompass a wide spectrum of non-consensual sexual activities. These include but are not limited to forced kissing, unwanted touching, fondling, harassment, as well as acts of overt sexual violence, as such attempted or completed rape.
Unfortunately, sexual assault is one of the only violent crimes that is not in decline, nationally. In British Columbia, the issue is particularly alarming. In just just one year, police-reported sexual assaults across the province jumped by 15%. Sadly, the number of sexual assaults that actually transpire is likely much higher. For many reasons, only a small portion of sexual assault survivors actually reports the crime to local authorities.
One of the biggest challenges for survivors of sexual assault is the fear of talking about what happened. Owing to the numerous psychological effects of being assaulted as well as the societal stigma that often comes with being a victim of this particular crime, the majority of sexual assault survivors end up suffering in silence. Many people who have been the victims of assault might irrationally blame themselves for what happened to them. They could feel a deep sense of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and confusion about their experience. These complicated feelings, along with the fear of being disbelieved or publicly scrutinized, can prevent sexual assault survivors from contacting the authorities for assistance. Unfortunately, only 6% of sexual assaults in Canada are reported to the police.
One of the biggest misconceptions about sexual assault is that it only occurs at the hands of strangers. However, the reality is that most sexual assaults are committed by perpetrators who already have a personal, pre-existing relationship with the victim. More than half of the country’s sexual assaults are perpetrated by the victims’ friends, acquaintances, and neighours. This means that many survivors of sexual assault struggle with the additional trauma of being betrayed by someone they know and trusted. This can make it even more difficult to speak out against their abuser.
The Impacts of Sexual Assault
The impact of sexual assault on survivors can be devastating. Survivors may experience feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and trauma, as well as physical and emotional pain. They may also struggle with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as self-esteem issues and a lack of self-worth. These profound, long-term psychological effects can impact a sexual assault survivor’s ability to function in their day-to-day life, cultivate and maintain healthy social relationships, and even complete the duties of their jobs.
That is partially why so many survivors of sexual assault also experience economic instability. For those who were assaulted while pursuing educational goals, the emotional fallout of their traumatizing experience could prevent them from completing their studies or vocational training, leading to a loss in future earning potential. Some survivors of sexual assault find it impossible to return to work after their experience. Their ensuing mental health conditions could prevent them from carrying out the tasks of their occupations, interacting with coworkers and clients, and going about the routine activities associated with their jobs. This could result in lost wages, missed opportunities for career advancement, and a reduced future earning capability.
Furthermore, in order to properly address their trauma in a safe and supportive environment, sexual assault survivors may require the assistance of a psychiatric, psychotherapist, counselor, or support group. These ongoing forms of therapy could be essential for their recovery. Unfortunately, they can also be expensive. Many survivors of sexual assault cannot afford the ongoing costs of psychiatric treatment, psychological counseling, or other forms of therapy. In these situations, they often turn to more self-destructive behaviours to try coping with their trauma, including alcohol and substance abuse.
Our British Columbia sexual assault lawyers believe that no one should be forced to pay for someone else’s criminal actions. By working with our sexual assault lawyers serving British Columbia, survivors across the province may be able to pursue a civil claim against their abuser, as well as any other party or entity who may be responsible for the crime committed against them.
Pursuing a civil claim is a different legal process from pressing criminal charges. These two processes can be pursued simultaneously. They have different intended outcomes and different standards of proof.
To press criminal charges, the assault victim must report the crime to the police so that the assailant can be tried by the Crown in criminal court. The goal of pressing criminal charges is to hold the attacker accountable for their actions. If they are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they could face harsh penalties, including incarceration.
On the other hand, a civil claim for sexual assault is a type of lawsuit that can be filed by the victim against their assailant. The goal of a civil claim is to recover monetary damages from the person who committed the assault. A civil claim can be pursued even if the alleged attacker is not charged or convicted of a crime in relation to the same incident. Civil claims are also held to a lower burden of proof, which means it might be easier to recover damages than to secure a criminal conviction. Damages that might be available by pursuing a civil claim could include:
- Lost wages
- Reduced future earning capabilities
- Psychological counseling
- Psychiatric treatments
- Prescription medications
- Failure to reach potential
- Loss of interdependent relationships
- Emotional distress
- And possibly more
By working with our British Columbia sexual assault lawyers, survivors who file a civil claim may find a sense of empowerment and closure, in addition to recovering compensation for the damages they have incurred. Taking legal action might also prevent the perpetrator from committing similar acts in the future. More than anything, though, taking legal action can also help survivors gain control over their lives in the aftermath of a traumatizing, life-changing event. To learn more about working with our sexual assault lawyers serving British Columbia, contact us today.
Contact Us to Book a Free Initial Consultation
Our British Columbia sexual assault lawyers appreciate how difficult it can be to speak out against sexual predators. It can be particularly emotional for survivors who were assaulted by a friend, family member, coworker, acquaintance, or romantic partner.
During a confidential, cost-free, no-obligation, initial consultation, our British Columbia sexual assault lawyers will be able to listen to your story and provide personalized, case-specific legal advice about options for legal action that might be available to you. To learn how our sexual assault lawyers serving British Columbia may be able to help you recover the compensation you deserve, schedule your free initial consultation with Preszler Injury Lawyers.