Yes, if you were sexually assaulted, you have a claim. Sexual assault (also described as sexual abuse) is recognized as wrongful in many areas of the law, including our civil and criminal court systems. However, before actually proceeding with a claim, there are many things that need to be considered.
Relevant considerations include whether there are any defences that might be successfully raised against your claim. For example, where an adult claims compensation for sexual assault that occurred in childhood or adolescence, there may be a “limitation defence” that applies. This defence is based on a court determining that too much time passed before the claim was started, with the result that the right to sue for compensation has been lost. This can be a complicated area of the law and legal advice should be obtained. For more information on limitation periods in sexual assault cases, see my article “Assault Claims Subject to Distinct Limitations Provisions”. Where an adult claims compensation for sexual abuse that occurred in adulthood, an example of a defence that may be raised is “consent”, which if accepted, can defeat a claim.
There are also practical considerations that can be important. If you are suing for compensation in the civil courts, relevant questions include whether the person(s) you are suing are alive and their whereabouts known, and whether they have sufficient means to pay you compensation.
In summary, while having a valid claim is an important first step, there are many things that need to be considered before deciding whether or not to actually pursue a claim for compensation in our civil courts.
This is general information only, and is not intended as legal advice. If you have been sexually assaulted or sexually abused, you are encouraged to contact a lawyer for advice specific to your situation.
Elizabeth Grace heads the Toronto office sexual assault group, she is a partner at the Ontario law firm, Lerners LLP, and has specialized in sexual assault matters for almost two decades now. See her professional biography for more information about Elizabeth and her work in the area of civil liability for sexual abuse.