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.

Just Posted

Federal Green Party leader visits Ashcroft

Elizabeth May was in town with Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon Green Party nominee John Kidder

MP holding town halls in Ashcroft and Lillooet this week

MP Jati Sidhu will be meeting with residents to answer questions and hear concerns

Historic Cornwall fire lookout to get some tender loving care

Volunteers are being sought for a work bee at the lookout in August

Ashcroft resident now in his 25th year of riding to raise funds for BC Lung Association

Wayne Chorneychuk once more getting ready to ride in the Bicycle Trek for Life and Breath

Wildfire smoke can pose serious health risks

Tips to help you stay safe during the smoky summer season

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

Family of missing B.C. senior with dementia frustrated with situation, heartened by community support

Nine days since Grace was last seen the question remains: ‘How can an 86-year-old just disappear?’

Unsealed record suggests U.S. man convicted of murdering Vancouver Island couple left DNA on zip tie in 1987

William Talbott is set to be sentenced Wednesday in the murders of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg

Surrey court clerk files human rights complaint related to concussion

Deborah A. Ryane claims her employer discriminated against her on basis of mental disability

Food fight: Liberals, Tories trade shots as pre-campaign battles intensify

Health Canada released an overhauled document that did away with traditional food groups and portion sizes

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Two brands of ice cream sandwiches recalled due to presence of metal

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a recall on Iceberg and Originale Augustin brands

Most Read