Alberta Judge Slams Ruling On Sexual Assault Case

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An Alberta judge overturned a ruling on a sexual assault charge and took the opportunity to deliver a scathing lecture on consent.

"Consent in the context of sexual activity is not a difficult concept," writes Justice Juliana Topolniski in the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench judgment.

"It is long beyond debate that in Canada that 'no means no.'"

"Consent in the context of sexual activity is not a difficult concept."

In October, a 15-year-old boy approached a 15-year-old girl during an after-school workout, according to Topolniski's judgment.

Both the accused and the victim's identities are protected by the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The boy made comments about the girl's body, then "told the complainant that she was sexy and fit and touched or slapped her buttocks several times." The girl said she initially "laughed it off because she was not expecting it. "

He then pushed her into a locker, "grabbed at her buttocks, ran his hands over her body, and tried to kiss her." She removed herself, told him to go another way and turned a corner.

Instead, he followed her, pushed her into a doorway and tried to kiss her again while he grabbed parts of her body.

She tried to push him away and told him "no." At this point, she wasn't laughing. She removed herself and left the school, where the boy followed her and forced her to hug him.

"It is long beyond debate that in Canada that 'no means no.'"

Most of the incident was captured on a camera inside the school.

In April, provincial court judge Michael Savaryn found the boy not guilty of sexual assault.

Savaryn, a former trustee with the Edmonton Catholic School District, rejected almost all of the girl's testimony, Topolniski noted.

In Savaryn's initial ruling, he wrote "…in fairness to the accused, the complainant tried so hard to laugh it all off, that I do not believe she was successful in communicating her discomfort which initially I find was totally internalized as she was literally and by her own admission laughing his grabs off."

He said her complaint would have held more merit had she called for help, or put more effort into walking a different direction from the accused. He also questioned a text message sent by the girl after the incident, where she used a laughing while crying emoji to describe the events to a friend.

'Sexual stereotyping' about victim behaviour

Topolniski slammed Savaryn's ruling, implying it blamed the victim.

"The complainant’s state of mind after the incident is irrelevant to the question of consent. Indeed, the trial judge’s consideration on the complainant’s post-incident conduct is indicative of sexual stereotyping about how victims of sexual assault will behave," Topolniski wrote.

"Even if one were to accept the trial judge’s findings that there was consent to the pre-doorway touching, there can be no doubt that... the complainant withdrew any consent she might have given by clearly conveyed physical and verbal cues."

The boy will be returning to Youth Court for sentencing.

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