Sexual Assault

The Dilemma of Disclosure, The Question of Conviction

Rita F. Gunn (Author), Candice Minch (Author)


Only a small percentage of all cases of sexual assault are reported to the police. Why do so many women decide not to report an assault? And what happens to the assailant when a case is reported and charges are laid? In this volume Rita Gunn and Candice Minch explore the answers to these questions, basing their analysis on the most comprehensive data available on sexual assault in Canada.

Through interviews with victims of sexual assault, they analyze the factors that influence the women to report an attack or keep silent. Society still places the responsibility on women to avoid being sexually assaulted, so the victim is caught in a dilemma when deciding whether to disclose an assault.

The authors then look at what happens when a sexual assault is reported. They follow a sample of assaults from the initial police report through to the final disposition of the case, demonstrating that: only 10 percent of the original charges resulted in conviction; 20 percent were reduced to lesser charges; over 70 percent of the charges were filtered out of the criminal justice system before trial; and societal attitudes which blame victims for the offence extend into the legal system.

Finally, the authors offer an assessment of the effects of the 1983 sexual assault legislation on the processing and ultimately on the reporting of sexual offences. They conclude that law reform is necessary but not sufficient in itself. “The law is only as innovative as the individuals who use, interpret, and apply it.”

This volume provides a valuable analysis of sexual assault as it affects the victim and the assailant.

About the Authors

Rita Gunn is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Manitoba and a research consultant with University of Manitoba Research Ltd.

Candice Minch is a research and policy analyst with the Attorney General’s Deaprtment of Manitoba

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Social Context of Sexual Assault
Chapter 2. Understanding Sexual Assault
Chapter 3. The Effects of Socialization
Chapter 4. The Response of the Victim
Chapter 5. The Response of the Criminal Justice System
Chapter 6. The Role of the Prosecutor
Chapter 7. The New Sexual Assault Legislation