Sexual Assault: Why Consent Is Important

One of the most common defences given for those charged with sexual assault criminal offences is they believed consent was given by the victim. However, this is not always the case and the accused merely assumed the other person indicted their consent in the affirmative in some manner. Unfortunately for the accused and the victim alike, the miscommunication in regards to consent have led to life-altering circumstances.

For the accused, if they are convicted and found guilty of the offence, they could face varying periods of imprisonment, be required to pay court fees and fines, might have to make restitution to the victim or a victim’s charity fund, and be placed on the sex offenders’ registry. For the victim, they will experience a wide range of emotional states and may find it difficult to enter into future relationships due to a lack of trust. Plus, they could end up pregnant if protection was not used.

With sexual assault offences, many people believe that these types of crimes typically involve some form of violence, leading to rape, as often depicted on TV crime shows. Although, while violent rape crimes are serious offences, what typically occurs is a misunderstanding about consent, leading to the actual sexual assault.

To illustrate, you find yourself in a romantic situation with your partner where there is heavy petting and groping occurring. While you might assume this is an indication to take things further, the other person may not want to, even though they have consented to the current level of sexual interaction.

Before assuming your partner wants to become even more intimate, it is best for your own protection to obtain a verbal and vocal approval. Cues, like a nod, or vocal sound could be misconstrued by you as an affirmation to proceed, while in fact, your partner is not ready to give this level of consent.

Another example where some people mistaken consent is given is when they have previously engaged in sexual intercourse in the past with their partner. Just because they gave consent in the past on previous occasions, does not necessarily mean they will give consent again in the future. Rather, it is important to remember consent can be given and taken away at any time, for any reason. Therefore, you should obtain consent each and every time, regardless of the actual level of sexual interaction between you and your partner.

Furthermore, there are times when a person is not legally able to provide consent. It is your responsibility to be aware of these, and take appropriate actions to avoid potentially being charged for sexual assault. One of the more common ones, is when the other person is not mentally able to provide consent or would not give consent if they were of actual sound mind, like if they are heavily intoxicated and barely conscious.

Please keep in mind the above information should not be viewed as actual legal advice. If you have been charged with sexual assault, contact Toronto criminal defence lawyer, Jeff Hershberg at 416-428-7360 today to arrange a consultation and find out your legal rights.