Hello. My name is Amie Kroes, and I am a social worker serving on the board of the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre. In addition to that, I have had the opportunity to work with survivors in multiple different contexts and in multiple different roles.
According to an April 2019 Department of Justice report, while sexual assault rates have remained stable over the last 15 years, over 80% of these incidences were not reported to the police. According to a collection of Justice Canada studies, the most frequently cited reason for not reporting was that people did not think they would be believed. These studies also found that two-thirds of the participants were not confident in the police, the court process or the justice system.
Sexual assault cases are one of the only types of crimes where a survivor's character is put on trial. Survivors who agree to a court process will be asked to retell their story, recognizing that a lawyer is to dismantle it, call them a liar and systematically pick apart their credibility. This process is being overseen and regulated by a person who may likely not have any specialized training on how to understand trauma, the impacts of it or the societal influences governing their own bias. We do not feel this is a socially just or ethical practice.
We all know the comments that have caused survivor/victims and the general public to lose faith in the justice system, comments such as in a 2014 case when a judge said, “Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?”, the same judge who on more than one occasion mistakenly called the complainant “the accused”. There have been other cases, such a judge saying that clearly a drunk can consent, or a lawyer asking whether the larger-than-average penis size of the assailant was attractive to the survivor. This was permitted, in a court of law. This is how some survivors are treated by our justice system.
Tell me, would you ask a loved one to report if you knew that this is what was waiting for them in the courtroom? This must change.
Recognizing that rape myths impact every aspect of the justice system, the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre has a working partnership to provide education to the police services in our jurisdiction. This training empowers officers to do their job in the best way possible by providing training on the neurobiology of trauma and evidence-based facts to counter rape culture. This training has received a positive response, not only from the officers working with victim-witnesses, but also from the victim-witnesses who are working with the officers. Through this bill, we may begin to change the relationship between survivors and the justice system, and while it's only a small step in the right direction, it is valuable movement toward building trust.