Alternative Avenues to Justice for Sexual Assault Survivors

Different Canadian and international approaches have sought to make justice more accessible, effective, and meaningful for sexual assault survivors. These include small-scale projects designed to improve existing avenues, such as specialized courts. They encompass larger efforts to develop location-specific responses to sexual violence, such as post-secondary sexual assault policies. They also include approaches that reimagine legal responses to sexual assault, such as restorative or transformative justice processes. While specialized courts and campus sexual assault mechanisms are important and can meaningfully improve legal responses, the alternative models of restorative and transformative justice also warrant consideration. Piloting these programs could supplement the existing legal models and meaningfully increase access to justice for at least some survivors in some circumstances.

This report examines three approaches that have been used in Canada and internationally to respond to sexual violence against women:

  1. Specialized courts designed to respond specifically to violence against women
  2. Campus sexual assault policies and mechanisms at Canadian universities
  3. Alternative justice processes, including restorative justice and transformative justice

The report summarizes the key aspects of these models and discusses their potential advantages and disadvantages. It concludes by offering ideas for potential pilots and considerations to keep in mind.

For a survivor-focused analysis of Canada’s legal responses to sexual violence, we encourage you to read Part One of the Due Justice for All report.

Special thanks to Karen Segal and Paniz Khosroshahy for their work drafting this report.

The Due Justice for All Project was generously funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada (formerly Status of Women Canada).

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