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Stephenville mother wants changes to justice system for sexual assault cases

The mother of a teenage girl in Stephenville is hoping for changes in the justice system when it comes to dealing with sexual assault cases.
The mother of a teenage girl in Stephenville is hoping for changes in the justice system when it comes to dealing with sexual assault cases. - 123RF Stock Photo

A Stephenville mother says following the pain her daughter endured in the courts she wants the justice system to change.

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Her teenage girl was one of the complainants against a male youth charged with several sex offences.

"There’s a passion on my end to bring this issue to the forefront to try and get a system that is just,” she said. “It’s broken — it needs to be fixed."

In the case involving her daughter that went to trial in late June, the male teenager pleaded not guilty to three counts of sexual assault, assault, and an alleged attempt to choke her. In November, Judge Lynn Cole acquitted the male of all those charges. She also cleared him of another set of sexual assault charges.

There are three trials with three female complainants. Neither of the teenagers nor the mother can be identified due to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The male teen is back in court in early January on a single charge of sexual interference in the last of these trials.

The mother feels there are a significant lapses in the court system that need improvement and said the judgment in the case involving her daughter is only part of the problem.

She said a significant amount of money is spent on supports for victims, but feels the supports themselves are not exactly supporting victims.

“We heard from police to people in the court system and victim services themselves the process will re-victimize a victim,” the mother said. “Our case is not the only demonstration of that; the system does this time and again.”

She said an overall view is sexual crime is continuing to rise, that it’s never stopped and never slowed down.

She feels the cycle of crime sends clear and strong messages, including:

- conditioning victims to be silent;

- telling victims their testimony will not have the power to stop perpetrators;

- demonstrating the justice system is failing to protect not only the victims, but also the public in general.

The mother believes society has support concerning consent when it comes to “no means no.”

However, she feels there is little understanding on defining what constitutes consent, what consent is and the lack of it.

“Our justice system is so far skewed towards innocence, the burden of proof operates as a mechanism to keep perpetrators, not only free, but able to commit these crimes again,” she said.

She said the principle the system operates under ensures most sexual assault criminals walk free and until these things change the justice system will continue to protect the guilty, not the innocent.

The mother said she will be making connections with people who have the power to make change in this area.

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