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Ineffectiveness of 1983 Sexual Assault Reform

In 1983, reforms were made to Canadian Sexual Assault Laws, the key changes that were made included a focus on the violent nature of the crime instead of its sexual nature, removal of gender bias that assumed that sexually active women were more likely to give consent and charge and conviction rates were changed to encourage victims to report the crime. These reforms were a step in the right direction, however; these still fell short in achieving justice for the victims. This paper will explore and further illustrate the ineffectiveness of the 1983 sexual assault reforms.

Sexual assault is still the most under-reported crime in Canada. In 2004, a survey done by Statistics Canada’s crime victimization reported that an estimate of 460,000 women were victims of sexual assault but only 8 percent reported the crime, however; this percentage has dropped to 5 percent in 2014. This indicates that removing formal bias from the crime has been ineffective as victims are still hesitant to come forward because the stigma, shame, and guilt associated with being sexually assaulted has not changed at all. Societal views are still the same and this affects the willingness of the victims to come forward with their case (Johnson, 2017).

Gender bias is still in effect as cases involving alcohol or drug influence, spouse-related sexual assaults, and sexually active women are handled the same way as they were handled more than 35 years ago. Victims are made to doubt the whole situation and spouse-based sexual assaults are written off as “spousal spat”. If a victim comes forward with their case, the focus of the case is still the sexual nature of the and not to the violence involved. On top of all this, these cases become hot topics and the victims’ private lives are publically displayed for all to see (Du Mont et al., 2010).

This type of treatment by society and lack of protection from the law is playing a huge part in the reason why the sexual assault crime rate is not dropping. The issues addressed by the 1983 reform is not effective as these cases are handled the same way as these were before 1983, victims are still blamed and shamed, so it is clear that although this reform was a step in the right direction it has been ineffective in achieving what was intended.


Du Mont, J., Macdonald, S., Rotbard, N., Bainbridge, D., Asllani, E., Smith, N., & Cohen, M. M. (2010). Drug-facilitated sexual assault in Ontario, Canada: Toxicological and DNA findings. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 17(6), 333–338.

Johnson, H. (2017). 24. Limits of a Criminal Justice Response: Trends in Police and Court Processing of Sexual Assault. In E. A. Sheehy (Ed.), Sexual Assault in Canada: Law, legal practice and women’s activism (pp. 613–634). Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa | University of Ottawa Press.



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