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Sexual Assault in Canada

Elizabeth A. Sheehy


Jane Doe

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1This book represents a transformation. A conscious, lovingly-crafted collection of thought, theory, and research, born of a feminist conference in 2009. There, for the first time any of us could remember, women who are experts on rape came together to dialogue proactively — and not in response to a current legal atrocity or funding cut, or in competition or crisis. It was as if by magic.

2Okay, not magic at all, but hard work, and then, something thrilling that captured us on those two winter days, warmed us, reminded us of community, its power and comfort, the exhilaration it can produce. Presentations from around the globe — about sexual assault of all things! — filled us up, made us giddy with possibility, validated our work and what we knew, introduced us to new thought and concepts. We were revitalized, renewed, transformed. And then we all went home, back to our agencies, institutions, and bureaucracies, back to our homes, reserves, and shelters. But transformation is an ongoing process and, like any good process, has multiple stages to connect, layers to mix and mash, fears to be defined and understood. This book is a layer, a piece we did not have before, a building block.

3Formal comments about the conference were glorious and called overwhelmingly for more. Since then women have been raped and murdered at unprecedented rates: raped for war, for sport(s), for marriage, in pursuit of university degrees, because of poverty, disability, race, and immigration. Raped for all manner of reasons and institutions and lack of cause; raped because they are women. Funds have been cut and legal atrocities abound in Canada and globally. As it ever was.

4But here is the difference, the magic. Here in these pages, this art, the very thing you hold, is the prospect to transform, to stimulate, and to inform yourself and others about one of our most grievous and systemic of crimes. Now, if all of this is sounding a bit too grand or esoteric, let me put it another way. This is the textbook you want in your law classes, as well as in journalism, medicine, social work, and the humanities — in all of the disciplines that impact and influence our responses to sexual assault and the women who experience it. Tell your professors and administrators. Sexual Assault in Canada: Law, Legal Practice and Women’s Activism will assist all of us in beginning to understand rape. And, when we do, we can craft meaningful solutions and resolutions.

5Let’s get started.


The woman who, after a twelve-year legal battle, successfully sued the Toronto Police for negligence and gender discrimination in the investigation of her rape. Her case, Jane Doe v Board of Commissioners of Police, set a Canadian legal precedent and is taught in law schools across Canada. She is also a teacher, community activist, and author. Her book The Story of Jane Doe (Random House, 2003) was nominated for numerous awards and is on the curriculum of several university and college courses. Her article, “What’s in a Name? Who Benefits from the Publication Ban in Sexual Assault Trials” (in Lessons From the Identity Trail, 2009) sheds further light on legal response to the crime. Jane Doe was a founding member of the Sexual Assault Audit Steering Committee, which was formed to implement change in police investigations of sexual assault and in response to the Auditor General’s Review of Sexual Assault for the Toronto Police Service. A report on that process, “A New Chapter in Feminist Organizing,” was published in 2010 in Canadian Woman Studies

© Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa | University of Ottawa Press, 2012

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