On Thursday, June 9, 2016 B.C. Premier Christy Clark shared her support for the Green Party Bill on Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act and UBC’s draft sexual assault policy. On Friday, June 10, 2016 Premier Clark responded to women advocates on CBC Almanac with Gloria Macarenko regarding policies and funding in respect to violence against women in the province of B.C.. In her remarks, Premier Clark spoke to sexual assault.
On Monday, August 22, 2016, a Freedom of Information request by Global news revealed that only 2.9% of sexual assault reports to the Vancouver Police Department end up as convictions. Data from from 2005 to 2015 shows 5,231 sexual assaults were reported in Vancouver, only 1,022 charges were laid and from those charges there were only 156 convictions.
In response, the B.C. Criminal Justice branch provided its own statistics. They shared that in the same 10 year time period, of the 1,646 people accused of sexual assault in Vancouver, 80% were charged and 50% resulted in convictions.
“Prosecutor Controls the Doors to the Courthouse”
There’s been much talk about the legal system and sexual assault. One aspect that we have to keep in mind is the key role the Crown Prosecutor plays in the criminal justice system. Crown prosecutor controls who will be charged, once the case is brought to them by the police and they recommend sentencing as well as reducing charges.
For the purpose of this blog we’re focusing on three steps to the courthouse:
- Police: investigating and recommending charges
- Crown Prosecutor: deciding to approve the charges that police have recommended or not.
- Of those cases where the Crown Prosecutor has approved charges they decide the next steps which could include trial.
Prosecutors are not excluded from living in a culture that normalizes sexual violence against women, street based sexual harassment, and/or victim blaming. Thus, when choosing cases to proceed with, these factors can likely influence the Crown Prosecutor’s decision to proceed with charges and which cases will go to trial.
In B.C., Criminal Justice officials make distinctions between “jump from the bushes” sexual assault, cases involving friends, neighbors and acquaintances and sexual assault in an intimate relationship, such as a marriage. The relationship between the perpetrator and the victim appears to be a predictor of the outcome charges for the Crown Prosecutor. Because sexual violence against women is so endemic and normative sexual violence in marriage was considered legal up until 1983.
At Battered Women’s Support Services, our primary work has been supporting women who experience violence in their intimate relationships. 80% of women who access our services disclose sexual violence in their intimate partner relationships and virtually all do not report sexual violence to the police.
In general, most of society believes that justice is only achieved through the legal system. However, these latest statistics remind us that the legal system hasn’t been sufficient in providing justice for survivors. For instance, a serial rapist was released, recently and living in downtown Vancouver, after being convicted with three life sentences. Two men for multiple sexual assault attacks throughout Metro Vancouver earlier this year will not face any jail time.
How BWSS Gets Tough
Justice and Safety Looks Different for Each Survivor.
Every day, at our Vancouver office, our crisis team is on the frontline supporting women survivors of violence. This means we walk strong with a woman through her crisis supporting her safety; her practical needs and her helping her navigate the complex justice system during her most vulnerable time. This includes filing reports to the police, attending meetings with Crown Prosecutor and supporting her at trial.
Every month we receive 600 calls to our crisis line, 185 are first time callers
And we are there for them, because of you and your support.
#GetTuff with us! You can help support women survivors of violence right now by donating $35 to our crisis support services today.