KNOW YOUR RIGHTS & GET ASSISTANCE WITH A COURT CASE
If you are the victim of a sexual assault and have filed a police report, it is likely you will need to go to court. This can be a difficult and confusing experience. You may have a lot of questions about the criminal court system and what will be expected of you.
Victims’ Bill of Rights
- Victims should be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect for their personal dignity and privacy by justice system officials.
- Victims should receive access to information about services available to victims and the progress of the investigation and prosecution.
Overview of the Court Experience
- The prosecution of sexual assault offences can be difficult, lengthy and complex.
- Crown attorneys must consider many issues, including victim safety, the need to call expert evidence, assessing the need for testimonial aids, publication bans and the possibility of media attention.
- Defence counsel may make applications to gain access to the victim’s confidential medical and therapeutic records or applications to question the victim about prior sexual history.
Impact of the Criminal Court Process on Sexual Assault Victims
- With the psychological impacts being so significant in these cases, navigating the court process may seem like an insurmountable task to a victim.
- Victims of sexual assault are often in a state of crisis throughout the criminal court process, and may require extensive emotional support, counselling and medical attention.
- Court proceedings, seeing the accused and/or recounting the details of the assault may trigger unpleasant memories for the victim.
- The possibility of disclosure of their confidential records and the possibility of the admissibility of their sexual history can result in the feeling of being re-victimized.
Testimonial Aids for Victims of Sexual Assault
The Criminal Code lists a number of testimonial aids that may be available to victims upon application by the Crown or victim. These include:
- Closed Circuit Televisions/Screens so that the victim doesn’t need to see the accused while the victim testifies.
- Support Persons who can sit nearby the victim while she/he testifies.
- Publication Bans which prohibit the publication of the identity of the victim.
- Exclusion of the public from the courtroom.
- Appointment of counsel for cross-examination where an accused is self-represented.
Contact Victim/Witness Assistance Program
The Victim/Witness Assistance Program is offered by the Ministry of the Attorney General in every court district in Ontario. To find the program office in your area, click here »
With the help of the Victim/Witness Assistance Program you will be provided with the assistance you need based on your specific case and needs. The program can help you from the time police have laid charges and continue until the court case is over.The Victim/Witness Assistance Program (V/WAP) offers the following client services to victims and witnesses:
- Information about the criminal justice process
- Case-specific information
- Emotional support, including crisis intervention, advocacy & debriefing
- Needs assessment and appropriate referrals to community services
- Discussions of safety issues and referrals for comprehensive safety planning
- Communication with Crown Attorneys and police regarding the victim’s needs and input
- Court preparation and orientation
- Safe waiting area prior to testifying
- Information about Victim Impact Statements, Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and other support services available to victims of crime (e.g., Victim Support Line, Parole Board of Canada)
- Court accompaniment for vulnerable clients where no other suitable support person or service is available
- Coordination of community services