Only one in 10 substantiated sex assaults result in conviction, StatCan says

Most recent data reaffirmed many long-standing facts about sexual assault cases

The vast majority of sexual assaults that have been substantiated by police do not result in a criminal conviction or even make it to court, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

New research from the agency surveyed the number of sexual assault allegations that police ruled as founded between 2009 and 2014, noting that this figure is considerably lower than the number of such offences that likely took place.

Of those, StatCan said only 12 per cent, or about one in 10, resulted in a criminal conviction. Most cases never had a chance to attain one, as the research found only 49 per cent of substantiated sexual assault complaints made it to court in the first place.

StatCan contrasted these rates with similar figures for physical assaults, which are nearly twice as likely to both make it through the justice system and secure a conviction. About 75 per cent of physical assaults proceed to court after charges are laid, and 23 per cent of substantiated claims result in conviction, StatCan said.

The research excluded data from Quebec and Prince Edward Island due to an inability to adequately compare data with other provinces.

READ MORE: Pitt Meadows councillor convicted of sex assault from 25 years ago

The StatCan survey acknowledged that the data it surveyed is merely scratching the surface of a complex issue, saying it hopes the report will lay the groundwork for future research.

“While conviction rates … and severity of sentencing outcomes are often used as measures of criminal justice, neither take into account the potentially large volume of cases that never made it to court,” the report reads. “The ‘fall-out’ of cases before court can provide vital context for how sexual assaults are handled in the criminal justice system.”

StatCan announced in the report that the focus would shift to tracking sex assault claims that police have classified as “unfounded,” saying a report on the issue will be released next July.

The most recent data reaffirmed many long-standing facts about sexual assault cases. StatCan said 87 per cent of sexual assault victims were women and girls, and the majority of alleged perpetrators were known to them in some capacity.

StatCan found that cases in which the victim and the alleged assailant were known to each other were less likely to go to court, with only 47 per cent of such cases resulting in charges compared to 64 per cent in which the accused was a stranger.

That number fell even further if an accused was a member of the victim’s family, but StatCan said those cases were likely to result in stiffer penalties if the person was convicted.

Age also played a role in the success of a sexual assault prosecution, it said.

“It may be suggested that middle-aged to older women sexually assaulted by young men were most likely to see their assailant go to court and be convicted, whereas younger female and male victims of sexual assault (including children) who were victimized by middle-aged to older men many years older than them were less likely to see the same course of justice,” the report reads.

The research also found that the majority of cases that originally come before the court as a sex assault charge don’t wind up being handled that way. The data showed 60 per cent of sex assault charges brought before the court are prosecuted as a different type of offence.

Amanda Dale of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic said the finding suggests lawyers are working around a system that they recognize is stacked against victims of sexual assault.

“The Crowns in these cases are seeing that the justice system is still not ready to receive these crimes on an equal basis with other crimes,” she said. “If you take it from sexual assault to plain assault, you might have a better outcome because all of the prejudices that surround sexual assault might suddenly no longer be your barrier.”

Dale said the findings are yet another indicator that the system for prosecuting sexual assault is in need of change.

While she acknowledges that the national conversation around the issue has shifted and progress is being made, she said the latest numbers continue to paint a disheartening picture for sexual assault survivors.

“It doesn’t surprise me, but it continues to shock me that we have a crime that so closely approaches impunity that’s so widely experienced.”

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Aspiring pot-sellers can apply in two weeks to operate stores in Abbotsford

City will accept applications to operate one of four new stores; public consultation to follow

Abbotsford homeless advocate killed by RCMP in Lytton

Barry Shantz spearheaded getting harm-reduction services in city, changing bylaws around homeless

SLIDESHOW: Vancouver Motorcycle Show back in Abbotsford

Annual event runs all weekend long on Tradex

Abbotsford Peewee Hawks win big in Las Vegas

Minor hockey team outlasts five opponents to win Las Vegas Invitational

Nine Abbotsford citizens fleeced for over $68,000 by bitcoin scammers

Police warn public about fraudsters who threaten arrest

VIDEO: Mass coronavirus quarantines seen in China won’t happen in Canada, authorities say

‘If a case comes here, and it is probably … it will still be business as normal’

Canada slips in global corruption ranking in aftermath of SNC-Lavalin scandal

The country obtained a score of 77, which places it at the top in the Americas

Wuhan bans cars, Hong Kong closes schools as coronavirus spreads

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said her government will raise its response level to emergency, highest one

B.C.’s oldest practising lawyer celebrates 100th birthday, shares advice

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

5 things you need to know to start using ridesharing in Metro Vancouver

From how to get started to where drivers can take you, heres all you need to know

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

UPDATED: Mayors call for ‘calmness’ as highway rockslide cuts Tofino, Ucluelet off from supplies

Ministry of transportation expects to open road for “essential travel only” from noon-8 p.m. Friday.

Most Read