Melissa is a 15-year-old girl struggling with math at school. Fortunately, her new math teacher is extremely nice, offering her extra help with her homework after class. One day, when she goes to his office to ask him a question regarding the new assignment, he accidentally brushes her chest. Confused, she does nothing until he puts his arm around her waist and tries to kiss her. Leaving in a hurry, she doesn’t say anything to anyone. The next day at school, the teacher tells her to see him after class. This time, he tries to force her to take off her shirt. When she refuses, he tells her that no one will believe her anyways and that he will give her an A+ on the next assignment if she complies. Scared, she rushes home, unsure of what to do.
What can Melissa do? What are her legal rights?
What can Melissa do?
If Melissa wants to, she can immediately report the crime to her parents, another teacher, her principle or directly to the police. Her first step to the justice system will be reporting to the police whose role will be to investigate the facts of the case to see if Melissa’s teacher can be charged. The earlier she reports the crime, the higher the chance the police will be able to find relevant evidence (witnesses for example). If there is enough evidence, the police will produce a report recommending charges. After going to the police, Melissa can ask for special measures so that she does not have to see her teacher while pursuing these charges.
Melissa’s Legal Rights:
The The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is in force around the world, including in Canada. It lists the fundamental human rights of all children, defined as everyone below the age of 18. The Government of Canada protects these legal rights. Melissa’s teacher has infringed her right to be protected from physical, mental or sexual abuse, neglect or exploitation.
Criminal Code Offences Involved:
According to the Criminal Code of Canada Melissa’s teacher could be charged with sexual interference and sexual exploitation.
Section 151(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada describes sexual interference as: every person who, for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of a person under the age of 16 years.
Section 153 of the Criminal Code of Canada describes sexual exploitation as: every person commits an offence who is in a position of trust or authority towards a young person, who is a person with whom the young person is in a relationship of dependency or who is in a relationship with a young person that is exploitative of the young person, and who a) for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of the young person; or b) for a sexual purpose, invites, counsels or incites a young person to touch, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, the body of any person, including the body of the person who so invites, counsels or incites and the body of the young person.
Additionally, Melissa’s teacher could be charged with sexual assault. Sexual assault is any form of sexual contact without both parties’ voluntary consent. A sexual assault can also occur when someone threatens to sexually assault another and is able to immediately follow through with that threat. Importantly, sexual assault need not be limited to intercourse. It includes kissing and touching.
In order for Melissa’s teacher to be found guilty, it must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he engaged or intended to engage in a sexual act without Melissa’s consent.
Consent means that a person agreed voluntarily to take part in the act. If one does not voluntarily agree, then there is no consent. In Melissa’s case, the first time she brushed him off and ran out, and the second time directly refused, making it clear that she did not consent to any sexual activity.
In order to determine if consent was given, a court will look at Melissa’s words, conduct, and reasonable steps that she took. In this case, Melissa said NO and immediately left. If Melissa is interested in reporting these crimes, then it is recommended that she immediately tell her parents/guardian who can then assist her with going further to telling the principal of her school and the police.
It is very common for a person in Melissa’s situation to feel a variety of different emotions, such as embarrassment, guilt, anger or shame.
There are a variety of resources available in order to offer advice or support:
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
Assaulted Women’s Helpline: (416)863-0511, outside GTA: 1-866-863-0511)
Justice for Children and Youth: (416) 920-1633, 1-866-999-5329 (outside GTA)
Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres: http://www.sexualassaultsupport.ca/Default.aspx?pageId=535883
Boost Child Abuse Prevention and Intervention: http://www.boostforkids.org/Home.aspx
The scenario for this post was written by Cydney Kim a JFCY volunteer on the PLE Team. Cydney is in grade 12 at University of Toronto Schoolds. The legal info was written by Lauren Grossman, a first-year law student at U of T who is volunteering at JFCY through her law school’s Pro Bono Students Canada program. All info was reviewed by a JFCY staff lawyer.