Because sexual assault or sexual abuse is recognized as being wrongful in many areas of the law, there are a variety of different kinds of claims that can be brought, depending on what happened, when it happened and who was involved.
The civil justice system allows persons who have suffered a sexual assault to sue for “damages” (or compensation). There are a number of potential “causes of action” (claims recognized by our courts) which may be asserted. These include sexual assault, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and in the case of an employer, “vicarious liability” for the sexual misconduct of an employee.
Where a criminal offence has also been committed, an option may be to have criminal charges laid against the abuser. Most provinces and territories allow victims of crime to apply for publicly-funded compensation. In Ontario, such compensation is offered by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Depending on the circumstances of the sexual abuse, there could be other avenues of recourse, aside from our civil and criminal courts, such as a human rights complaint (in Ontario, by way of an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario), filing a grievance in a unionized workplace or a complaint under a workplace harassment policy, and complaining to a professional regulatory body.
For more information on the kinds of claims available in the case of sexual assault or sexual abuse, please see my article “Legal Redress Options Available to Abuse Victims”.
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.