Chapter 6 - Tools and Resources
FIRST CONTACT SUPPORT TOOL – SEXUAL ASSAULT
When someone discloses an incident of sexual assault for the first time, a supportive reaction can make all the difference, but that does not mean it will be easy. You may feel some conflicting thoughts and emotions about the disclosure but this person trusted you enough to disclose a very personal experience to you and the priority is to focus on their needs.
- 6.1. Ensure the victim’s safety. Are they away from the alleged offender? If they are phoning you, can you help them get to somewhere safe? If the person is out of danger now, tell them, “You are safe now.”
- 6.2. Once safety is established, medical care is the next consideration. Encourage the victim to get medical care for their immediate needs and offer to provide a support person to accompany them. If appropriate, explain the importance of preserving evidence. (Not all hospitals hold Sexual Assault Evidence Kits; check the resource list in the ‘Respect in the CAF Mobile App’ to determine the location nearest to the victim.)
- 6.3. You can say, “I won’t have all of the answers, but I will make sure you are supported.” There is a wide range of support services available to victims of sexual assault such as health care providers, the SMRC, the CAF Member Assistance Program, Chaplains, and Mental Health.
- 6.4. Find a private place to talk, clear your schedule. Be patient – it can take time.
- 6.5. Ask, “How can I help you?” Do not ask what happened. This is a question which should only be asked by the investigating officer and/or trained medical staff.
- 6.6. Keep your voice calm. Your calm voice and manner can help the victim remain focused and feel safe.
- 6.7. Practice active listening. Show that you are actively listening through your body language (e.g., nodding, facing in their direction, sitting down) and words (e.g., “I hear what you’re saying”).
- 6.8. Respect their personal space, and do not touch them without permission. Even if you think they want a comforting touch, resist your urge to do so without first enquiring whether such contact would be welcome. Always follow their lead. You can offer them something to keep them warm, like a blanket or your jacket, (shock can involve feeling cold, shivering, and shaking).
- 6.9. Communicate without judging. “I’m so glad that you came to me. I believe you.” “This doesn’t change how I think of you.”
- 6.10. Assure them that their reactions to a very traumatic event are normal. Avoid promising them that everything will be okay.
- 6.11. It is not their fault. If the victim says things that sound like they ‘should’ have done something differently, should have dressed differently or in some way behaved in a way which could have prevented the assault, let them know that, it is not their fault. The person who commits the assault is responsible.
Note: Be aware that feelings of guilt and shame can contribute to thoughts of self-harm. Behaviours, thoughts, and feelings expressed by the person may reveal a heightened level of distress.
Note: If you suspect that the person is having thoughts of suicide, ask them clearly and directly, ex: “Are you thinking of suicide?” If they answer yes, offer to assist them in accessing professional psychological services, or escort them directly to the nearest medical care facility, military or civilian.
IF YOU THINK SOMEONE IS SERIOUSLY CONTEMPLATING SUICIDE
- ASK the individual directly if they are thinking of suicide.
- LISTEN to what they have to say without judging.
- BELIEVE what the individual says and take all threats of suicide
- REASSURE the person that help is available.
- ACT immediately. Make contact with others to ensure the person’s
Don’t try to deal with the situation yourself. Medical staff, a Social Work Officer, a
Chaplain, and the individual’s CO are all people you can turn to for help.
- 6.12. Police involvement is recommended; offer to contact them on the victim’s behalf or arrange for them to speak with a police representative themselves. The assault can be reported at your local Military Police detachment or by contacting one of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) Regional Offices. It can also be reported to civilian police forces.
- 6.13. The SMRC, as well as CAF Health Service Centres and most civilian emergency departments have access to many resources (including which local hospital is the best choice to meet the needs of the person you are assisting). Offer to contact them or assist the person to contact them themselves.
- 6.14. If the victim wishes to call the police or the SMRC, offer to sit with them as they place the call.
- 6.15. If the victim gives you explicit permission to place the call on their behalf:
- Identify yourself by name.
- Note that you are calling for someone else.
- Ask any questions the victim wishes answered.
- Be sure to note the name and any other contact information of a specific person with whom the victim may follow up.
RECOGNIZE YOUR OWN LIMITATIONS
While you can provide the initial supportive and compassionate response,
there are professional services available that have people with in-depth
knowledge and training in the complexities of sexual assault.
A GUIDE FOR VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
- 6.16. We recognize this is a very difficult time for you. Along with your colleagues, friends, and family, the Canadian Armed Forces is here to support you; you are not alone. The CDS pledged in the Operation HONOUR Op Order that he would “leverage the unequivocal support of his commanders and all members of the CAF” in support of this monumental effort. Since that initial pledge, many organizations and programs have been created, staffed and monitored to enable this effort, and to above all, support victims of sexual assault.
- 6.17. A sexual assault can happen to someone once, more than once, or even over many years. It can happen to anyone, women, men, LGBTQ2+, young or old. A person can be sexually assaulted by a stranger, their partner, dates, coworkers, acquaintances, or family members. People in authority and professionals can also commit sexual assault. Even if the victim was very close to the person who sexually assaulted them, it is still a crime.
- 6.18. Sometimes people who have been sexually assaulted feel as though it is their fault. Sexual assault is never your fault. It does not matter what you were wearing, what you were doing, who you were with, or where you were. Sexual assault is the fault of the person who commits the crime.
- 6.19. If you are not ready to report to police, we encourage you to seek medical attention and reach out for support.
WHAT WILL I BE FEELING DURING THIS TIME?
- 6.20. There is no “right” way to feel. Some victims are very emotional, tearful, and anxious after an assault. Others seem to be very cool, calm and collected, and may seem to be in control. You might have trouble sleeping and begin to have nightmares. You may lose your appetite and find that thoughts about the assault start to interfere with your daily life. You may feel you are re-experiencing the sexual assault. You may find it difficult to cope with work or the course that you are on as it becomes harder to concentrate. You may feel especially anxious when you see or hear anything that reminds you of the sexual assault. All of these feelings are normal.
SOME OF THE EFFECTS THAT YOU MAY EXPERIENCE…
- 6.21. Physical problems: Headaches, fatigue, sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancy, injuries, etc.
- 6.22. Psychological problems: Sadness, denial, depression, guilt, anger, shame, fear, nightmares, irritability, etc.
- 6.23. Sexual problems: Decreased desire or promiscuity, disgust, pain during intercourse, avoidance, etc.
- 6.24. Interpersonal problems: Dependence on others for support, isolation, rejection, lack of trust, victimization, etc.
- 6.25 Frustration or anxiety: Heightened sensitivity to prejudices, feelings you have no power over your life, etc.
- 6.26. Financial, social, or family problems: Difficulty at work, rejection by friends, loss of income, etc.
- 6.27. Addiction problems and other response mechanisms: Alcohol, drugs, gambling, medication, food, exercise, self-harm, etc.
- 6.28. Sometimes these feelings gradually fade on their own, but some people need to talk to a counsellor or even take medication to help them deal with these emotions. Contact the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre for information and access to support services.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE HOSPITAL
- 6.29. It is important to receive medical care as soon as possible after a sexual assault. Even if it has been a while since it happened, this care is essential.
- 6.30. Go to a hospital or to the closest CAF Health Services Centre. A nurse in the emergency room will examine you (take your vital signs, etc.) and determine if you require medical treatment. If so, the nurse will follow up with a doctor.
- 6.31. The doctor will give you the medical care you needand provide information on services available to you. The hospital may complete a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit to collect forensic evidence.
SEXUAL ASSAULT MEDICAL/FORENSIC EXAM
Content Awareness: The following section contains specific details of what occurs during a sexual assault medical exam. Some individuals may find this level of detail helpful, while others may find this causes distressing thoughts or images to surface.
Please take care of yourself and make the choice that is best for you.
- 6.32. DNA evidence from a crime like sexual assault can be collected from the crime scene, but it can also be collected from your body, clothes, and other personal belongings. You may choose to have a sexual assault forensic exam to preserve possible DNA evidence. You do not have to report the crime to have an exam, but the process gives you the chance to safely store evidence should you decide to report at a later time. You can also receive medical care at this time, should you require and request this. The Sexual Assault Evidence Kit actually refers to the kit itself: a container that includes a checklist, materials, and instructions, along with envelopes and containers to package any specimens collected during the exam.
- 6.33. The contents of the kits can vary by jurisdiction, but they normally include:
- bags and paper sheets for evidence collection;
- a comb;
- documentation forms;
- materials for blood samples; and
Note: Not all hospitals/medical facilities collect forensic evidence. To find a location near you that performs sexual assault forensic exams, call the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre or your nearest CAF Health Services Centre.
PREPARING FOR A SEXUAL ASSAULT FORENSIC EXAM
- 6.34. If you are able to, try to avoid activities that could potentially damage evidence such as:
- using the restroom;
- changing clothes;
- combing hair;
- cleaning up the area; and
- brushing teeth.
- 6.35. It is natural to want to go through these motions after a traumatic experience. If you have done any of these activities, you can still have an exam performed. You may want to bring a spare change of clothes with you to the hospital or health facility where you are going to have the exam.
- 6.36. DNA evidence should be collected as soon as possible after an incident (typically within 72 hours), but a sexual assault forensic exam can reveal other forms of evidence beyond this time frame that can be useful.
- 6.37 Some medical interventions also have a timeline, for example:
- Prophylaxis treatment for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): up to 72 hours
- Emergency contraception: Plan B: up to 5 days, copper IUD: up to 7 days
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A SEXUAL ASSAULT FORENSIC EXAM?
- 6.38. The steps below outline the general process for the exam. Remember, you can stop, pause, or skip a step at any time during the exam. It is entirely your choice. You may also wish to have someone accompany you through this process.
- Immediate care. If you have injuries that need immediate attention, those will be taken care of first.
- You will be asked about your current medications, pre-existing conditions, and other questions pertaining to your health history. Some of the questions, such as those about recent consensual sexual activity, may seem very personal, but these questions are designed to ensure that DNA and other evidence collected from the exam can be connected to the perpetrator. You will also be asked about the details of what has happened to you to help identify all potential areas of injury as well as places on your body or clothes where evidence may be located.
- Head-to-toe examination. This part of the exam may be based on your specific experience, which is why it is important to give an accurate history. It may include a full body examination, including internal examinations of the mouth, vagina, and/or anus. It may also include taking samples of blood, urine, swabs of body surface areas, and sometimes hair samples. The trained professional performing the exam may take pictures of your body to document injuries and the examination. With your permission, they may also collect items of clothing, including undergarments. Any other forms of physical evidence that are identified during the examination may be collected and packaged for analysis, such as a torn piece of the perpetrator’s clothing, a stray hair, or debris.
- Follow up care. You may be offered prevention treatment for STIs and other forms of medical care that require a follow up appointment with a medical professional. Depending on the circumstances and where you live, the exam site may schedule a follow up appointment, or you can ask about resources in your community that offer follow up care for victims of sexual assault.
WHO CAN PERFORM THE EXAM?
- 6.39. Not every hospital or health facility has someone on staff that is specially trained to perform a sexual assault forensic exam and interact with recent victims of sexual assault. When you call the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre or your nearest CAF Health Services Centre, you will be directed to a facility that is prepared to give you the care you need.
- Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) — registered nurses who receive specialized education and fulfill clinical requirements to perform the exam
- Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners (SAFEs) and Sexual Assault Examiners (SAEs) — other healthcare professionals who have been instructed and trained to complete the exam
WHY SHOULD YOU CONSIDER HAVING A SEXUAL ASSAULT MEDICAL FORENSIC EXAM?
- 6.40. Having a sexual assault forensic exam ensures that the forensic evidence will be safely preserved if you decide to report at a later time.
- It increases the likelihood of a successful prosecution. The importance of DNA evidence in sexual assault cases cannot be overstated. Not only does DNA evidence carry weight in court, but it may lead to the identification of serial predators and thus reduce the chances of other people being attacked. Even if the perpetrator is not prosecuted, their DNA may be added to the national database, making it easier to connect the perpetrator to a future crime.
- Your health matters. Sexual assault can affect your physical health. You may have injuries and trauma related to the assaults that are not immediately visible. Even if you chose not to go through the SAEK process, getting examined and treatment for these injuries, including preventative treatment for STIs, and obtain emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy, is still very important.
HOW LONG WILL THE EVIDENCE BE STORED?
- 6.41. The amount of time an evidence kit will be stored varies by location. The SANE, victim advocate or law enforcement officer should let you know how long the evidence will be stored. Although there is no statute of limitation for sexual assault in Canada, it is important to note that hospitals may not keep the evidence for as long as an investigation and trial may take. Once the crime has been reported to law enforcement, the kit is normally requested by the police, and transferred from the hospital to the law enforcement agency for storage until it is needed in court.
THE CANADIAN MILITARY JUSTICE PROCESS
- 6.42. The following sections explain, in a general way, how a Canadian military justice prosecution works.
- 6.43. Canada’s military justice system is a unique, self-contained system that is an integral part of the Canadian legal mosaic. This separate, constitutionally valid, military justice system operates in parallel with its civilian criminal justice counterpart. The system is created within the Code of Service Discipline (CSD), which is Part III of the National Defence Act (NDA). The purpose of the military justice system is to maintain discipline, efficiency, and morale in the military.
- 6.44. The operational realities of military life mean that service members are often held to a higher standard of conduct than what would be expected of a civilian. Because military personnel are often required to risk injury or death in the performance of their duties, both inside and outside of Canada, the military justice system puts a premium on the necessity for discipline and for cohesion of military units.
- 6.45. The military justice system employs a two-tiered tribunal structure. The term “service tribunal” means either an officer presiding at a summary trial, or a court martial. Both tribunals can be held wherever the CAF is deployed.
- Summary trials (ST) are designed to deal with relatively minor service offences that are important for the maintenance of military discipline and efficiency at the unit level. These trials allow military commanders to effectively and swiftly administer discipline, enabling members to return to duty as soon as possible.
- Courts martial (CM) are formal military courts presided over by independent military judges. These tribunals are similar in nature to civilian criminal courts and are designed to deal predominantly with offences that are more serious in nature.
- 6.46. A summary trial may be held wherever a unit is located, whether it is in garrison, in an exercise area or deployed abroad. Approximately 95% of all service tribunals are summary trials. This is consistent with the central role of the chain of command in the disciplinary process and also with the purpose stated in QR&O 108.02:
- “The purpose of summary proceedings is to provide prompt but fair justice in respect of minor service offences and to contribute to the maintenance of military discipline and efficiency, in Canada and abroad, in time of peace or armed conflict.”
- 6.47. Not all service offences can be dealt with at summary trial. QR&O 108.07 lists the offences that can be dealt with by a commanding officer at summary trial. Some offences, including most Criminal Code offences charged under section 130 of the NDA, cannot be tried by summary trial. Currently, only nine enumerated civil offences can be tried by summary trial, including assault (contrary to s. 266 of the Criminal Code), and possession of a controlled substance (contrary to s. 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act).
- 6.48. QR&O 108.17 specifies when an accused person has the right to elect to be tried by court martial. An accused person will generally be offered an election to be tried by court martial, unless two criteria are met: first, all the offences with which the individual has been charged must be for insubordination, drunkenness, absent without leave (AWOL), quarrels and disturbances, or (under limited circumstances) conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline; and, second, the circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence must be so minor in nature that the presiding officer concludes that a punishment of detention, reduction in rank or a fine in excess of 25 per cent of monthly basic pay would not be warranted if the accused were found guilty of the offence.
- 6.49. Summary trials are generally presided over by officers from within the accused person’s chain of command, from within one of the following classes of officer: Commanding Officers (CO), Delegated Officers (officers to whom a CO has delegated their powers to try matters), and Superior Commanders. The maximum punishments that can be imposed by each of these presiding officers is as follows: CO – 30 days detention; Delegated Officer – a reprimand (although a fine of 25% of basic monthly pay can also be imposed); and, Superior Commander – a severe reprimand (although a fine of 60% of basic monthly pay can also be imposed).
- 6.50. A presiding officer generally has the discretion to try an accused charged with any offence detailed in QR&O 108.07, provided the following conditions are satisfied:
- the presiding officer has jurisdiction to try people of the accused person’s rank (for instance, a Commanding Officer cannot try a commissioned officer, and a Superior Commander cannot try a junior NCM).
- the presiding officer considers that their powers of punishment are adequate;
- the accused has not elected to be tried by court martial; and
- the presiding officer does not have reasonable grounds to believe the accused is unfit to stand trial or was suffering from a mental disorder when the alleged offence was committed.
- 6.51. During a summary trial, the accused is provided with an assisting officer, but they do not have a right to be represented by counsel. The primary functions of an assisting officer are to assist the accused in the preparation of their case and to assist the accused during the trial to the extent desired by the accused. In addition, before the accused makes an election, the assisting officer shall ensure that the accused is aware of the nature and gravity of the offence(s) with which the accused has been charged and the differences between trial by court martial and trial by summary trial.
- 6.52. All offenders found guilty at summary trial have the right to request a review in accordance with QR&O 108.45 of the finding and/or punishment imposed at summary trial. The military review authorities acting under this article must obtain legal advice before making any determination on requests for review. As well, the findings and punishment imposed at summary trial may also be reviewed on the independent initiative of a review authority.
- 6.53. Courts martial are designed to deal with more serious offences and are conducted in accordance with rules and procedures similar to those followed in civilian criminal courts while maintaining the military character of the proceedings. Like summary trials, courts martial may be held anywhere in the world. Statutorily, courts martial have the same rights, powers, and privileges as superior courts of criminal jurisdiction with respect to all “matters necessary or proper for the due exercise of its jurisdiction,” including the attendance, swearing and examination of witnesses, the production and inspection of documents, and the enforcement of their orders.
- 6.54. At a court martial, the prosecution is conducted by a legal officer from the office of the Director of Military Prosecutions (DMP). In accordance with s. 249.19 of the NDA and QR&O 101.20, an accused person is entitled to legal representation by or under the supervision of the Director of Defence Counsel Services (DDCS), and, as a matter of policy, this legal representation is provided to an accused person at no cost to the accused person. An accused person may also choose to retain a lawyer at their own expense.
- 6.55. The DMP has directed that a prosecutor must seek and consider the views of the complainant when determining the most appropriate jurisdiction for the matter to be dealt with and has set out a number of different factors that a prosecutor must take into consideration including:
- the urgency of resolution;
- safety concerns about possible reprisals from the suspect or others;
- concerns relating to conditions imposed on the suspect following release from custody;
- access to victim support services;
- physical or mental trauma resulting from the alleged offence;
- physical or mental trauma resulting from participation in court proceedings; and
- the needs of any children or other dependents affected by the alleged offence.
- 6.56. There are two types of courts martial provided for under the NDA: General Courts Martial and Standing Courts Martial.
- General Court Martial: The General Court Martial is comprised of a military judge and a panel of members. The panel is roughly analogous to a jury in a civilian criminal court and includes five CAF members. The panel is responsible for the finding on the charges (e.g. guilty or not guilty), while the military judge makes all legal rulings and imposes the sentence. At present, when the accused is an officer, the court martial panel consists entirely of officers and when the accused is a non-commissioned member, the panel is composed of the senior member, one other officer, and three non-commissioned members who are of, or above, both the rank of the accused person and the rank of Sergeant. A decision of the panel in respect of a finding of guilty or not guilty, of unfitness to stand trial or of not responsible on account of mental disorder is determined by the unanimous vote of its members. A decision in respect of any other matter is determined by a majority vote.
- Standing Court Martial: The Standing Court Martial is conducted by a military judge sitting alone who is responsible for the finding on the charges and imposing a sentence if the accused is found guilty. For the most serious class of offences under the NDA, a General Court Martial will generally be convened, while for the least serious class of offences, a Standing Court Martial will be convened. In all other cases, the accused person has the right to choose between trial by General or Standing Court Martial.
- 6.57. Both the convicted offender and the MND have the right under the circumstances listed in s.230 of the NDA to appeal to the Court Martial Appeal Court (CMAC) from a court martial. CMAC decisions may be appealed to the SCC. Such appeals may be made on any question of law on which a judge of the CMAC dissents, or on any question of law if leave to appeal is granted. The CMAC typically hears several appeals each year.
THE CIVILIAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROCESS
- 6.58. The following sections explain, step-by-step, in a general way, how a Canadian civilian criminal prosecution works.
WHO WILL INVESTIGATE MY CASE?
- 6.59. The police conduct criminal investigations. Investigations begin when police witness behaviour or receive information about behaviour which may be a crime. Some criminal investigations are completed quickly. Others take weeks, months, or, in complex matters, years to complete.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE ARREST?
- 6.60. Once a person has been arrested and charged with a crime, they become “the accused”. Depending on the circumstances, the police can hold the accused in custody for a bail hearing.
- 6.61. If the police have not released the accused, the accused must go before a Justice of the Peace or a judge within 24 hours of the arrest for a bail hearing.
- 6.62. At a bail hearing, the Justice of the Peace or judge will decide if the accused is granted bail or kept in jail. Bail means someone known to the accused provides money or any type of surety as a promise that the accused will show up for their future court dates. The accused may also be required to agree to obey certain conditions as decided by the Justice of the Peace or judge.
- 6.63. One of the conditions is usually a “No Contact Order”. This means the accused cannot have any contact with you directly or indirectly– not even through a third party. An example of a third party is the accused getting a friend to call you for them. The accused cannot contact you by phone, letter, e-mail, text message or in person. Generally, the accused will not be allowed near your home, school and/or work. If the accused disobeys any of their bail conditions, you need to contact the police. An additional charge for breaching the bail conditions can be laid against the accused.
- 6.64. The accused will make many court appearances throughout the judicial process. Some of these court dates will be referred to as a “Set Date”. You are not required to attend these court dates. These dates are routine preparation dates for the lawyers. You will only have to attend court if there is a preliminary hearing or a trial.
Figure 6: Canadian Criminal Justice Process
This figure demonstrates the steps in the legal process when a crime has been committed. Each step is represented in a rectangle and is linked to its next step.
The first four steps include: report to police, the police investigation, the charges laid and the bail hearing. At the bail hearing, if a guilty plea is entered, the final step is sentencing.
If the bail hearing plea is not guilty, the steps are as follows: preliminary trial, trial, and verdict.
If the verdict is not guilty the steps end there. If the verdict is guilty, the final step is sentencing.
DO POLICE ALWAYS LAY CHARGES?
- 6.65. Sometimes the police decide not to lay a charge. This does not mean that the police do not believe you or that the sexual assault did not happen. It may mean that there is not enough evidence to prove a criminal charge in court. If this does occur, the investigators can tell you of other options available to you.
- 6.66. The decision to lay a charge rests with the police. If, based on reasonable grounds, the police believe a person has committed a crime, they may lay a charge. They must consider all evidence against the accused: witness statements, case law, burden of proof and other variables.
- 6.67. When the police lay a charge, they complete an information package describing all the evidence and deliver a package to the Crown attorney. The accused person or, more often, the accused person's lawyer, also receives a copy of the information package. Personal information, such as the home address of the victim, is restricted to only the Crown attorney. The court receives a list of charges against the accused person from the police.
DECIDING WHETHER TO PROSECUTE
- 6.68. The Crown attorney is responsible for deciding whether to proceed with charges against an accused person. They are required to prosecute cases fairly and treat all parties in the case, including victims, witnesses and the accused, in a fair manner. The Crown attorney will consider the victim’s wishes when deciding whether to proceed, but must also consider the public interest in making a decision. The Crown attorney must answer two very important questions:
- Is there a reasonable likelihood of conviction?
- Is it in the public interest to proceed?
- 6.69. If the answer to both of these questions is yes, the Crown attorney will prosecute. If the answer to either or both of these questions is no, the Crown attorney will not prosecute. In this way, the Crown attorney exercises prosecutorial discretion. Another element of this discretion is that the Crown attorney may decide that it is not beneficial to proceed with all the charges against the accused. In that case, some of the charges may be dropped.
HOW LONG DOES THE COURT PROCESS TAKE?
- 6.70. Depending on the case, it might take between a few months to 30 months from the time a charge is laid. This long wait may be difficult for you. It is important to get support during this time. Contact the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre for information and access to support services. If certain criteria are met, you may be entitled to support from provincial victim support services throughout the court process, of which the Crown will inform you.
WHAT IS A PRELIMINARY HEARING?
- 6.71. A preliminary hearing is a mini trial in front of a judge. It is not required in every case but it is very common when sexual assault charges are laid. In a preliminary hearing, the judge will decide if the Crown attorney has enough evidence for a trial. You will most likely have to testify in a preliminary hearing. Other witnesses may have to testify as well. The accused and their lawyer may also attend and testify.
WHAT IS A TRIAL?
- 6.72. The Crown attorney and the accused’s lawyer will ask you and other witnesses what happened before, during and after the sexual assault. At the end of the trial, the judge will make a decision.
- 6.73. It is important to remember that if the judge decides the accused is not guilty, this does not mean you or the other witnesses were not believed. If the accused is found not guilty, the accused is free to go. This is called an acquittal. If the accused is found guilty, the judge will choose from a range of sentences.
- 6.74. At the beginning of the trial, the accused will plead “guilty” or “not guilty” to the sexual assault. A plea of “guilty” means the accused admits to the crime. In these cases, there will not be a trial and you will not have to testify. The judge will listen to the facts of the case, find the accused guilty, and decide the punishment to be imposed.
- 6.75. A plea of “not guilty” means the accused does not admit to the crime. The accused will then request a trial before a judge alone or before a judge and Jury. In these cases, you will have to attend court to testify at the trial.
WILL I HAVE TO TESTIFY IN COURT?
- 6.76. If the accused chooses to plead not guilty, you will most likely be required to testify at the preliminary hearing and at the trial.
- 6.77. Once the judge or jury has considered all the evidence, they can find the accused guilty or acquit the accused. The judge can also order an adjournment if the jury is deadlocked and is unable to reach a unanimous decision.
- 6.78. There is also the possibility that charges may be “stayed” or “withdrawn”. If the judge or jury find the accused not guilty, the accused is free to go and cannot be tried again on the same charge, unless the Crown attorney appeals and the appeal court orders a new trial. If the accused is found guilty, the judge may sentence the accused immediately or set a later date for sentencing.
- 6.79. The judge decides the sentence. In making the decision, an independent assessment of the background of the case or a pre-sentence report may be asked for by the judge. The Crown attorney and defence lawyer may make sentencing recommendations. The judge considers these recommendations, as well as victim impact statements, but it is the judge who makes the final decision on the sentence. There can also be joint submissions agreed upon by the prosecutor and the defence attorney. The judge will normally accept a joint submission unless it is not in the interest of justice.
- 6.80. The offender serves their time in the community. The offender will be supervised by, and must visit with, a probation officer. The offender usually has rules to follow that are listed on the probation order. These rules, known as conditions, may include abstaining from alcohol, staying away from certain areas or people, to attend counselling, to seek or maintain employment and to obey a curfew. A Probation Order cannot last more than three years.
- 6.81. If the offender violates any one of the conditions of probation, they may be arrested and charged with a new offence of “Breach of Probation”.
SUSPENDED SENTENCE WITH PROBATION
- 6.82. A judge may choose to delay or “suspend” giving a sentence to the offender. The judge may then release the offender on a probation order. The offender does not serve any jail time but is under the supervision of a probation officer.
- 6.83. A judge may use this option to see how the offender complies with their probation. A suspended sentence provides for a specific penalty that will be available to a judge if the offender does not comply with the conditions of the probation. This allows the judge to decide on a more serious penalty or to suspend the sentence until the probation period is complete.
- 6.84. When a judge orders a sentence of 90 days or less, the offender may be able to serve the sentence on weekends instead of on a continuous basis. This allows the offender to go to work or school, care for children, or manage any health concerns. This sentence always comes with a probation order. The offender must abide by the probation order when they are not in jail.
- 6.85. The offender may go to jail. The judge can also order a “No Contact Order” as part of the sentence. This means the offender cannot contact the victim from jail.
- 6.86. If the sentence is less than two years, the offender is sent to a “Provincial Jail”. A probation order may also be given to start when the offender gets out of jail.
- 6.87. If the sentence is two years or more, the offender will be sent to “Federal Prison”. There are minimum, medium and maximum-security prisons. The security level is determined by the risk the offender poses within the prison.
- 6.88. Victims are entitled, upon request, to receive information about the offender who harmed them, to provide information at specific times, and to attend parole hearings, through services provided by the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada.
A GUIDE FOR DEALING WITH SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN MOVIES, SHOWS, NEWS, AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Tool 1: Tips for survivors on consuming media
- 6.89. The media can be a great tool for increasing public awareness about sexual misconduct, but it can also pose challenges for some affected persons. Portrayals of sexual violence in movies, television shows, the news, and social media can prompt negative reactions, from flashbacks and anxiety to feelings of sadness or irritability. Below are a few ways to help limit your exposure to media that could prompt these uncomfortable experiences. Above all, you are in control of what you watch or read.
MOVIES AND TV SHOWS
- 6.90. Movies and television programs can contain dramatic plots that depict sexual violence, graphic scenes, or emphasize trauma over healing.
- Pay attention to the warnings. If you’re concerned a movie or television show might make you feel uncomfortable, read ahead. TV Guide blurbs, movie reviews, and explanations of ratings can give you a sense of the content. If you want to watch but are unsure, plan to view in a space that feels safe for you, such as your home, rather than a crowded theatre.
- Remember, this isn’t the whole story. Often, movies and television shows leave out the most critical part: the healing process. It can take a long time for a victim to move forward—but that doesn’t necessarily make for entertaining content. Movies and television shows might emphasize the drama of the victim experience over the positive steps forward.
- 6.91. Newspapers, magazines, and their web components can all report on instances of sexual violence. Usually these cases feature a high-profile person or expose a larger issue within an institution.
- It’s not just news. News outlets work hard to attract readers. These accounts might be graphic, sensationalize the crime, or even defend the perpetrator.
- People are going to react. Stories of sexual violence tend to prompt strong reactions from the public, who either agree or disagree with the allegations. It can be painful to read about people not believing a victim’s story or the difficulties of a particular investigation. Remind yourself that these stories are not happening to you in this moment, and find comfort by talking to someone you trust.
- 6.92. Used the right way, social media can be part of a healing experience for victims, but it also has the potential to cause negative reactions.
- You are in control of your social media experience. If you see something that makes you uncomfortable, you can close it at any time. When posting on social media sites, explore privacy and viewing settings to control what information you share with others and what information is visible to you.
- Pros and cons of sharing. Many victims share their stories online, either on personal blogs or by contributing to conversations through hashtags like #MeToo. These outlets can give victims a voice and help them move forward. Reading these stories might be inspiring, but it also runs the risk of causing anxiety or other unexpected feelings. Keep in mind you are not obligated to share your story publicly—that is a personal choice.
- Not everyone uses social media for good. Sometimes people use technology to hurt another person. They may engage with a victim in a bullying, unsolicited, or non-consensual way. They could also belittle someone’s character or expose details of someone’s life that aren’t meant to be shared.
A TOOL TO HELP VICTIMS OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT DEAL WITH DOCTOR’S AND DENTIST’S APPOINTMENTS
Tool 2: Quick info cards for survivors of sexual violence
- 6.93. Many victims of sexual misconduct express difficulty with doctor's appointments and other situations, especially when the circumstances may be triggering, but the victim is not comfortable expressing what they need in words. The following cards can be printed and used in these situations. They can be given to the receptionist when you check in for your appointment at the doctor's or dentist's office, or given to the nurse or other health care provider.
Doctor's appointment -
You prefer a woman present [PDF, 194 Kb]
Doctor's appointment -
You prefer a male present [PDF, 198 Kb]
Dentist appointment -
General [PDF, 198 Kb]
- 6.94. Self-care following trauma is vital, both for victims of trauma as well as for those who support them. Traumatic events can cause people to feel angry, frustrated, helpless, and afraid. They can also make people want to seek revenge. Studies have shown that acting on this anger and desire for revenge can increase feelings of distress, anger, and guilt rather than decreasing them.
- 6.95. While some people recover after traumatic events on their own, others seek the assistance of a mental health professional within weeks of the event. It is important to note that some individuals delay seeking appropriate support until much later. If you or a person you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, and/or they persist for more than 3-4 weeks, you are encouraged to make contact with a health professional. It is normal to have intense reactions to abnormal events. It is when those reactions persist that medical attention becomes important.
A TOOL FOR PRACTICING SELF-CARE AFTER TRAUMA
- 6.96. Whether it happened recently or years ago, self-care can help you cope with the short- and long-term effects of a trauma like sexual assault. Positive coping actions help to reduce anxiety, and lessen other distressing reactions. These types of coping actions improve things not only for today but for the future as well. The following are just a few suggestions that you may like to try.
- Maintain your lifestyle. Maintaining your lifestyle and continuing to do what you enjoy is important for your emotional wellness. If you enjoy painting, cooking, exercising, spending time with friends, or other activities, keep them up. It may seem challenging to make time to do these activities, but they can be helpful self-care strategies in the long run. After a trauma, you may be healing from injuries or feeling emotionally drained. Good physical health can support you through this time.
- Physical self-care. After a trauma, you may be healing from injuries or feeling emotionally drained. Good physical health can support you through this time.
- Eat regularly (e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner)
- Eat healthily
- Get regular medical care when needed
- Get enough sleep
- Make time away from technology
- Reach out and talk about it. It can continue to be difficult as time goes on and you begin the healing process. You can call the SMRC at 1-844-750-1648 to speak with a trained professional who understands what you’re going through for support, options, or to have your questions answered.
- Make plans. Sometimes talking about what happened can help you cope with your feelings, and other times it can make you feel more stuck. Make plans that give you a break from talking or thinking about the assault. It could mean starting a new hobby or revisiting one you already enjoy. You could go to dinner with a group of friends who understand this isn't time to discuss what happened. Maybe you prefer a solo activity, like going on long walks. Let this be a time where you can take your mind off the assault.
- Take time to relax. Relaxation looks different for everyone. You might consider meditation or deep breathing exercises. Maybe journaling helps you sort through your thoughts and find peace. Build time into your day for these moments of relaxation so that you don’t skip out.
- Take care of your emotional well-being. Emotional self-care means different things to different people. The key to emotional self-care is being in tune with yourself.
- Stay in contact with important people in your life
- Find ways to increase your sense of self-esteem
- Identify comforting activities, objects, people, relationships, places, and seek them out
- Allow yourself to cry
- Find things to make you laugh
SELF-CARE WHEN SUPPORTING A VICTIM OF SEXUAL ASSAULT
- 6.97. Good self-care enables you to better care for others, especially if you are supporting someone who has survived sexual assault.
- Understand the signs of vicarious trauma. For someone who is providing continued support for a co-worker/friend/someone they supervise, an alleged offender, or for anyone who has been impacted by sexual misconduct, it is important to be aware of the signs of vicarious trauma, which can include:
- becoming cynical or losing hope;
- avoiding social or work contact;
- becoming fearful and overprotective because the world is seen to be dangerous;
- setting rigid boundaries in relationships or, displaying a lack of boundaries and rescuing others; and
- abandoning spiritual beliefs.
- Understand the signs of vicarious trauma. For someone who is providing continued support for a co-worker/friend/someone they supervise, an alleged offender, or for anyone who has been impacted by sexual misconduct, it is important to be aware of the signs of vicarious trauma, which can include:
Self-care isn’t always easy to take on by yourself. To speak with someone who is trained to help, contact Mental Health / Injury resources.
ADMIN/DISCIPLINARY RESPONSE TOOLS
- 6.98. TOOL: COMMANDER’S CHECKLIST FOR REPORTS OF AN INCIDENT OR ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT
- Ensure the physical safety of the victim - determine if the alleged offender is still nearby and if the victim desires or needs protection.
- Provide the victim access to emergency healthcare, regardless of visible injuries, unless the victim declines healthcare. Ensure the victim is given priority and treated as an emergency case.
- If the victim wants to have forensic evidence collected after a sexual assault, inform them on how to preserve evidence (by not bathing, showering, having anything by mouth, voiding bladder, or washing garments).
- Ensure Military Police/CFNIS are notified immediately (if a crime is suspected).
- Request JAG support as soon as the victim’s immediate safety is assured.
- To the extent practicable, strictly limit knowledge of the facts or details regarding the incident to only those personnel who have a legitimate need-to-know.
- Take action to safeguard the victim from any informal investigative interviews or inquiries, except those conducted by authorities who have a legitimate need-to-know.
- Collect only the necessary information (e.g., victim’s identity, location, and time of the incident, name and/or description of the alleged offender(s)). Do not ask detailed questions and/or pressure the victim for responses or information about the incident.
- Ensure that the victim understands the availability of, and benefits associated with, receiving support from the SMRC and other victim support services.
- Ask if the victim needs a support person, which can be a personal friend or family member, to immediately join them. Please note that this support person could later be called to testify as a witness if the case goes to trial.
- Ask if the victim would like a chaplain to be notified and notify accordingly.
- Provide ongoing victim support.
- Apply disciplinary and/or administrativeas appropriate.
- Establish and implement a plan to protect the affected person, any named witnesses, and the alleged offender from acts of reprisal, where applicable.
Tool 3: Sexual Misconduct Incident Management
- 6.99. TOOL: SEXUAL MISCONDUCT VICTIM FLOW CHART (Under Development by SMRC)
- 6.100. TOOL: SEXUAL MISCONDUCT RESPONDENT MAP (Under Development)
 QR&O 108.14
 Consult the federal, and your respective provincial, victim support services website for further information. https://www.victimsfirst.gc.ca/serv/vsc-svc.html, https://www.victimsfirst.gc.ca/serv/spt-spt.html
 “Tips for Survivors on Consuming Media.” Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 13 Sep 17
 "Trauma and Victimization" issue of Visions Journal, 2007, 3 (3), pg. 15-16
* The immediate responses will vary depending on how long ago the incident has occurred (weeks, months, or years).
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