Friday, March 30, 2007

Double Double - Sentencing Sexual Assault Cases

A 31 year-old woman was recently sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment for sexual assault on a 12 year-old boy. At the time of the events, the boy was dating the accused's daughter. According to her, it was the victim who had started making sexual "advances" to her. The assaults, which ranged to "vigorous" kissing in public to complete acts of intercourse, occurred on a 6 months period, after which neighbouring finally contacted the Youth Protection Services.
In addition to her incarceration, the woman will be subjected to a three-year probation, in which she will have to undergo therapy, and she will be registered as a sexual offender.

I was watching a news report on this case on TV this morning. The anchor called it "une affaire de moeurs" (roughly, "a matter of public morals"), and described the case as a love story between a woman and a much younger man.


A curious instance of double standards arises from these facts.

First, the sentencing judge was a lot harsher on this woman than he would have been on a man in the same situation. It's no secret that there is something seriously rotten in the application of the rules on sentencing in Canada, especially when it comes to sexual assault. As a matter of fact, most offenders who are sentenced for sexual assault, i.e. mostly men, are sentenced to a few months' imprisonment, and often get conditional sentence (in which the offender is "imprisoned" in his own home and has to submit to a curfew) where the assault was not "violent" (i.e. where no violence was applied on the victim, beside that which is inherent to the assault itself).

Thus, I find it very surprising that this woman got such a "harsh" sentence. (I know. 15 months plus probation is not nearly enough, when you think of the harm that was inflicted, but believe me, it's considered harsh in Canada).

Secondly, the public reaction to this case and the comments from the media were simply appalling. Had the offender been a 31 year-old man and the victim a 12 year-old girl, I doubt that anyone would have tolerated public displays of sexual touching for so long. And I also doubt that anyone would have described such an exploitative relationship as a love affair, in which the child voluntarily seduced the accused.


For further information, here's an interesting article on the issue of the rationalization of sexual exploitation of children by adults.
(I feel morally obligated to render what is due, and admit that I found this article via a post at Ladies Against Feminism.)

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