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

Petition to stop new cell tower too close to Kelowna homes

An online petition was started to stop cell tower construction near Ellison Elementary School

Local Kelowna project tabs restaurant workers for industry fundraiser

The 2nd Hungry Games invites fundraises for local charities

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Clear skies and pushing 20 C

Environement Canada forcasts a sunny and warm Easter weekend

Peeling away: OK strip clubs disappearing

Hear from Penticton’s only strip club owner about their success in a dying industry

Berry: Sayonara journalism, it’s been fun

Lake Country had more in store than I bargained for

Update: Fire destroys Peachland home on Somerset Avenue

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Summerland student examines effects of sound

Science fair project will go to national competition in New Brunswick

Cuteness overload: duckling thinks dog is its mom

Vernon photographer Fiona Hook shot a cute video after noticing one of her ducklings had taken a special liking to her dog.

Fire near Vernon airport “not a concern”

Vernon firefighters attended the scene and found a resident performing a controlled burn

Sons of Anarchy’s Kim Coates stops by Okanagan café

Coates was spotted in West Bank’s Kekuli Café on April 20

B.C. women make 2,200 cabbage rolls for charity

The money raised was donated to former NHL player Aaron Volpatti, who is raising funds for ALS

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

Most Read