The Impact of Bill C-l27 on the Discursive Construction of the Victim of Sexual Violence in Canadian Courts: Emerging Issues for Feminist Jurisprudence
This study investigates the effectiveness of the 1983 rape law reform in dealing with victims of sexual violence. The law, as it stood before the 1983 reform was blatantly gender-biased; women's experiences of sexual violence were based on male expectations and desires about women's sexuality, morality, and behavior. These expectations were clearly represented within both formal law and law-in-practice. The rape reform of 1983 was a triumph for feminists seeking to reconceptualize sexual violence to more adequately represent women's experiences. However, questions remain about the translation of legal reform rhetoric into law-in-practice. In this thesis, I examine the possibility that adult female victims of sexual violence are still constructed along preconceived legal notions regarding who is and who is not a deserving or genuine victim. In order to explore the discursive construction of the victim of sexual violence, I analyze Saskatchewan appeal trial transcripts using a qualitative thematic content analysis. My results show a continuity in the preconceived legal constructions of the rape/sexual assault victim. I therefore conclude that there are still questions about relying solely on legal reform in furthering feminist goals for justice for victims of sexual violence. Seeking justice for victims of sexual violence, therefore, requires a more in-depth analysis of the relationship between women and the law.
Master of Arts (M.A.)