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Having a Safe Stampede: Consent and Sexual Assault

Having a Safe Stampede: Consent and Sexual Assault

Posted by Christine Dunlop — filed in Litigation

Coverage of sexual assaults has increased in recent months. During this time of year, it becomes an even more prominent topic of conversation in Calgary. While Stampede is a time to have fun and relax, everyone should be able to stay safe. Groups like #SAFESTAMPEDE have been set up to start a conversation about sexual assault during Stampede. The group also includes information on what sexual assault is and what consent is on their website. While many know that sexual assault is a criminal offence, not many are aware that there is also a civil action for sexual assault.

Difference between Criminal and Civil Sexual Assault

In criminal law, there is just the offence of sexual assault.  This is broadly defined as applying force to a person without their consent (“an assault”) in such a way that the complainant believes their sexual integrity was violated. Generally, if someone is grabbed by the arm without their consent, that would be considered assault. If someone is groped without their consent, they were sexually assaulted.

In civil law, there are two types of action:  sexual assault and sexual battery.  Sexual battery in civil cases is basically the same as the criminal definition of sexual assault.  Civil sexual assault is when someone makes a believable statement that they are going to touch you in a sexual way without your consent. Based on this, groping someone without their consent would be both sexual assault in the criminal sense and sexual battery in the civil sense.  Threatening to grope someone would be civil sexual assault.

Suing for Civil Sexual Assault and/or Battery : What do you Need to Know?

For someone to be found liable for civil sexual assault, it may not enough that a threat is made. The person bringing the action for sexual assault must have experienced apprehension that the person making the threat against them will actually carry it out. This apprehension must be reasonable. The assault must also be imminent. This means that the person being threatened fears that the threat will be carried out soon, and not at a future time.

Any sexual physical contact made against a person while they are unconscious or asleep is still considered sexual battery. In civil actions of this nature, a defendant will be held responsible for all outcomes of the direct consequences of their actions whether intended or not of foreseeable or not.  However, the law acknowledges a difference between significant and insignificant touching.  If accidentally running into someone in a crowded hallway results in inadvertent contact, it is likely to be seen as just that, inadvertent.  Conversely, even if no harm was intended by the person, the result can be sexual battery.  Hugging or kissing a person without their consent is a clear example of this.

If an action is brought against someone for sexual assault and/or battery, the action will usually be for some form of monetary damages.  Alberta permits civil claims based on sexual harassment and/or battery without any limitation period.  This means that, no matter when it happened, a claim can still be made.  For more information, click here.

Where to get help

The Sheldon Chumir Health Centre has a Sexual Assault Response Team. They can help with sexual assaults that have taken place within the last 96 hours. They are located at 1213 4 Street SW Calgary, Alberta T2R 0X7.

The Calgary Police Services can be contacted at 911 for emergencies, or at 403 266 1234 for non-emergencies.

If you’d like to speak to a lawyer about sexual assault or sexual harassment, contact a lawyer at Aarbo Fuldauer LLP in Calgary.

Address: 3rd Floor, 1131 Kensington Road NW, Calgary, AB, T2N 3P4

Phone: (403) 571-5120


The information in the blog is not legal advice. Do not treat or rely upon it as legal advice.  If you require legal assistance, please contact a lawyer.
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