Rape: Who Actually Pays?
In this piece, I wish to explore why I retained independent legal counsel and the potential implications for future sexual assault victim/witnesses. I will briefly explore the arguments put forward by the Criminal Lawyers Association (CLA) in the the criminal case of my assailant (R. v. Ururyar 2016) and his appeal and the problematic assumptions that are being made in their factum. Before reading, you might want to check out Six lessons I learned from my rape case in NOW MAGAZINE.
In 2016, the man who sexually assaulted me was found guilty. Following the conviction I was asked to submit a “Victim Impact Statement”. The standardized form asked me to outline the economic, physical, financial, and security impact for the judge to take into consideration during sentencing.
I survived four days of brutal cross-examination that attempted to violate my privacy in terms of my sexual preferences and discussions with my therapist (despite the denial of both s.276 and s.278 applications by the trial judge).1 When I was asked to reveal personal consequences of the sexual assault, I had no interest in revealing any more personal details about my life or the emotional impact that the assault had on me.
But what I did want – was to share just how much the rape cost me financially and professionally. I wanted to highlight the consequences of defence counsels “legal strategy” to wear me down by repeatedly asking questions that violated my privacy rights. I was angry at the courts for the failure to respect the provisions of the so-called rape shield laws, or rather as I refer to them now as “rape shield myths”.
Under the newly enacted Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, I was able to seek restitution for some of the costs that I incurred from the rape. Many of the costs would be difficult to calculate (such as time off from my PhD program, loss of relationships and lost opportunities). I submitted a bill for privately retained legal counsel for a total of $11,000 and asked that the attacker pay for it. To me, this cost was inconsequential to the personal, financial and emotional costs I had endured at no fault of my own: being a target of rape.
In a precedent setting judgment, Justice Marvin Zuker ordered a restitution order of $8,000 to cover a large portion of my legal costs.
On February 12, 2017 the Toronto Star reported that the Criminal Lawyer’s Association (CLA) was permitted to intervene in the upcoming appeal of the conviction and the sentence. The CLA is intervening on narrow grounds arguing that it is unfair for the sentencing judge to order a restitution order to cover a complainant’s legal fees in a sexual assault trial.
First and foremost, one of the most common questions I receive is: why did you retain legal counsel? Prior to my assault, I would have never thought about a victim of a crime retaining legal counsel for a criminal matter. After my assault, I was desperate and drowning in institutional bureaucratic discourse and the offloading of responsibilities between the university and the legal system. Wishing to return to my studies and employment after the assault, it became clear that seeking