Hoggard trial exposes misconceptions about consent: specialists

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The sexual assault trial of Canadian musician Jacob Hoggard turned on one central subject: consent.

The Hedley frontman was discovered responsible of 1 rely of sexual assault inflicting bodily hurt in opposition to certainly one of two complainants on Sunday, however acquitted of the identical cost plus a rely of sexual interference associated to a teenage fan.

On the crux of the proceedings was a conflict about consent, as is usually the case in sexual assault trials, say observers.

The Crown alleged Hoggard violently and repeatedly raped a teenage fan and a younger Ottawa lady in separate incidents within the fall of 2016, whereas the defence argued the sexual encounters had been consensual.

Excessive-profile circumstances like Hoggard’s have the ability to form our understanding of consent, attorneys and advocates say, exposing dangerous misconceptions that pervade the courts and society at giant.

“It is nice to be making an attempt to shine a lightweight on a few of these tales and likewise worrisome,” Toronto felony and constitutional lawyer Megan Stephens mentioned in an interview forward of the decision.

“These sorts of circumstances are those that make individuals wonder if they need to come ahead and report what has occurred to them.”

Canada has a few of the most progressive legal guidelines on the books about consent in sexual assault circumstances, mentioned Stephens. The difficulty lies in how the letter of the regulation is utilized, she mentioned.

The Felony Code requires that consent be affirmatively communicated by means of an individual’s phrases or conduct, which means by means of indicators that point out “sure,” reasonably than the absence of a “no.” Consent might be withdrawn at any level in a sexual encounter.

Ontario Superior Courtroom Justice Gillian Roberts advised the jury deciding Hoggard’s destiny that consent within the context of a sexual assault case is about whether or not the complainant “in her thoughts wished the sexual touching to happen,” citing a provincial attraction court docket ruling.

Stephens, a former Crown lawyer, mentioned this “subjective customary” means many sexual assault circumstances come all the way down to jurors’ assessments of the credibility of the complainant and accused based mostly on the proof they current.

Jurors sometimes do their finest to stay to the regulation, she mentioned, however identification can affect their determinations and what and whose proof is to be believed.

Many observers have famous the perceived gender imbalance on Hoggard’s jury, which appeared to include 10 males and two ladies.

“We have realized lots over the previous couple of years about implicit biases and the way these can have an effect on our understandings and experiences. And I feel the jury system just isn’t immune from that,” mentioned Stephens, who advocates for ladies’s rights within the justice system.

“It’s onerous for individuals to typically perceive the experiences of others after they’ve by no means been in that place, whether or not it’s a male juror making sense of a feminine complainant or a white juror making sense of the experiences of a Black lady.”

Canadian courts have been grappling with the “myths and stereotypes” that plague the authorized course of, however even judges are susceptible to fall prey to them, mentioned Pam Hrick, government director and basic counsel at Girls’s Authorized Schooling and Motion Fund.

Canada’s highest court docket has issued quite a few rulings lately discovering that decrease courts erred of their software of sexual assault regulation, mentioned Hrick, serving as a course correction in a system that has subjected complainants to unfair scrutiny.

This exhibits how the social reckoning of the #MeToo motion has reverberated by means of the courts, however there’s nonetheless work to shut the hole between Canadian regulation and our evolving understanding of consent, mentioned Hrick.

“There’s a lag, I feel, typically between public understanding the applying or growth of the regulation,” she mentioned. “We should be vigilant in persevering with to push for change and be persevering with to attempt to safeguard a few of the positive aspects that we’ve got made.”

Farrah Khan, supervisor of Consent Comes First at Toronto Metropolitan College’s Workplace of Sexual Violence Help and Schooling, mentioned the Hoggard trial illustrates how misconceptions about intercourse and consent persist each out and in of the courtroom.

Defence attorneys alleged the complainants lied about being raped to cowl up their embarrassment after being rejected by a “rock star.”

The defence narrative fed into acquainted tropes, such because the “jilted lover” embittered about unreturned affections and groupies who fall beneath a well-known musician’s sexual thrall, mentioned Khan.

There have been energy dynamics at play within the case, comparable to variations in age and social standing, that Canada’s consent legal guidelines do not account for, however can nonetheless affect how sexual violence survivors course of their very own experiences, she added.

“It is vital for survivors to know it, as a result of typically you possibly can gaslight your self in these conditions,” she mentioned. “Simply since you wished to see somebody, simply since you wished to kiss somebody does not imply you need to be sexually assaulted.”

The Canadian Girls’s Basis performed an internet survey of greater than 1,500 Canadians in 2018 that discovered solely 28 per cent of respondents totally understood what it means to provide consent, a drop from 33 per cent in 2015 earlier than the #MeToo motion emerged.

With so many younger individuals who grew up listening to Hedley protecting observe of the Hoggard case, Khan mentioned she’s involved the subsequent era will endure comparable confusion except we begin prioritizing consent and pleasure in intercourse schooling.

“The problem is that we deal with consent like a checkbox,” she mentioned. “Consent is a few dialog… And it is ongoing, it is reversible.” 

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