Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Frederick Binding

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The purpose of the present study was to determine if the change in the Criminal Code which replaced the old offence of “rape” with the new offence of “sexual assault” had the desired effect of having sexual assault treated similar to physical assault. For this evaluation, five sexual assault cases and 22 physical assault cases were compared on the severity of the charge, the nature of the courtroom process and on the conviction and sentencing patterns. In addition, reporting, founding, clearing and charging rates before and after the new law were statistically compared.

Findings indicated that both sexual and physical assault cases were under-charged. Although both sexual and physical assault victims had a negative trial experience, the trial experience of sexual assault victims was more negative with regard to the issue of consent. In addition, sexual assault cases were convicted significantly less often than physical assault cases.

The number of Criminal Code offences reported and the percentage founded, cleared and charged in 1983 were compared to the means of the 1973–1982 data to determine whether the change in “rape” to “sexual assautl” had the desired effect of increasing the percentage of sexual assaults brought to justice. Findings indicated that there was a significant increase in the percentage of total sexual assaults cleared and charged for 1983. Both sexual and physical assault had a similar percentage charged for 1983. However, the percentage of total sexual assaults founded and cleared for 1983 was significantly lower than the percentage of physical assaults founded and cleared.

The findings that physical assault cases were in some ways treated as negatively as sexual assault cases by the criminal justice system calls into question why Bill C-127 equated rape to physical assault. The few changes that did take place under Bill C-127 were likened to token changes since there was still a greater percentage of physical than sexual assaults founded and cleared and seual assault victims continued to face an ordeal in court. It was concluded that this served to confirm the belief in a just world despite all evidence to the contrary. It appears from this study that in practice Bill C-127 is not presently fulfilling the expectations of its intent. However, no conclusive appraisal can be made of Bill C-127 as it is relatively new and untried. Further monitoring of Bill C-127 in the courts is recommended to ensure that justice is served.

Convocation Year


Included in

Psychology Commons