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Sue O'Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, responds to "Judge appears to blame victim in sexual-assault case, Adrian Morrow, February 24, 2011"

The timing couldn't be more poignant. As we approach International Women's Day on Tuesday March 8th, it is clear that there is still much work to be done within our own country to ensure basic respect and rights for women that have been the victim of a sexual assault.

The recent case in Manitoba, as well the 1999 landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision which confirmed that no means no, have generated much discussion among Canadians. This discussion has highlighted the types of unacceptable perceptions that continue to persist within Canada when it comes to crimes such as sexual assault and the role of the victim.

Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes in Canada. According to the 2009 General Social Survey, conducted by Statistics Canada, fewer than 12% of sexual assaults are ever reported to police.

The reasons why these crimes go so often unreported is complex, however we know that basic trust in the criminal justice system is a factor. If a woman is sexually assaulted it is a crime, full stop. We know that being a victim of sexual assault is traumatic and can have long term consequences.

We can and must do better. Enhanced sensitivity training, gender analysis of current and proposed legislation and a higher degree of awareness of victims' needs and concerns would go a long way to helping our justice system become a more trusted and effective process for victims.

Victims deserve more. Let's work together to ensure positive change for victims in this country.

Sue O'Sullivan
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime