Even if you are acquitted of all crimes, accusations of sexual assault can permanently tarnish your public image. You must take steps to protect your reputation. The Toronto sexual assault lawyers at Kruse Law can not only build your case for the criminal courts, but they can also help to prepare and defend you in the court of public opinion.
Why You Need to Protect Your Reputation
In Canada, anyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and they must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Sadly, it won’t always feel that way. With an allegation of sexual assault, it can feel like everyone is looking at you differently.
Your court case will take a long time. If your trial takes place in the Ontario Court of Justice, your trial will not take place until approximately 9-18 months after you are arrested and charged with a sexual crime. If your trial takes place in the Superior Court of Justice, the approximate timeline will be 18-36 months. The scheduling of your trial will depend on the population of the county you are charged in. Typically, larger cities such as Toronto have very busy trial court dockets and your trial date will be scheduled further down the road compared to less populous counties such as in Northern Ontario. During that time, your reputation is at risk. While you may not be found guilty, the accusation can impact your life and stigmatize you in other ways, including the following:
- Friends and family may change their opinion about you. They may no longer trust you and view you as a sexual predator.
- If you are single, your dating prospects may dry up.
- People in the community may look at you with fear, disgust, or distrust.
- Your children’s school might not let you participate in school activities.
- Colleagues at work may ostracize you or you may be fired.
- Your employer may distance themselves from you, looking past you for promotions and raises.
- You may not be able to secure employment.
The courts may presume your innocence. The public likely will not. Lingering skepticism can colour current and future relationships for years. You need to be proactive in protecting your reputation. An experienced lawyer in the Greater Toronto Area can coach you through this process.
Ways to Keep Personal Information Out of the Media
Neighbourhood gossip can be hard enough to endure. A big part of managing your reputation has to do with protecting personal information. This is true even if it is not a high-profile case. You don’t want to see your personal information in the media. Less attention is better—it can help to reduce struggles with public opinion.
Some steps you can take include:
- Keep a low profile. You may not want people to see you as a recluse, but you don’t want them to misinterpret your actions, either. Until the courts clear your name, stay out of the public light.
- Avoid social media. Your words can be misconstrued or taken out of context. It’s best to avoid posting on social media platforms for the time being.
- Build your support group. Friends and family members can vouch for your innocence. People can rally behind you and defend your reputation against accusations. This can help dispel negative media attention.
- Seek a publication ban of the evidence at your bail hearing and preliminary inquiry. Your Toronto lawyer can ask the courts to issue a publication ban at both your bail hearing and your preliminary inquiry (assuming the same takes place). This can restrict what media outlets can and cannot say about your case at least regarding these two important court proceedings. Your lawyer can explain other legal options after your case too. An accused is unfortunately not entitled to seek a publication ban for their trial.
- Hire a competent criminal lawyer with experience handling sexual assault charges. They can advocate on your behalf to the police and media about your Toronto sexual assault case. They can help you navigate the media.
On Managing False Allegations of Sexual Assault
If you’ve been wrongly accused of sexual assault, the hardships can feel even more unfair. Dealing with false allegations isn’t easy. This is why hiring a skilled and experienced criminal lawyer is so valuable. They can build your defence case, but they can also help you manage public opinion and help in your dealings with the police, courts, and media.
If you have been falsely accused, we advise the following:
- Be yourself. People can be suspicious of sudden changes in personality.
- Stay calm. It is normal to feel sad or outraged, but you need to remain calm.
- Exercise your right to remain silent. Do not provide any statements to the police or answer any of their questions about the allegations. Do not speak to anyone about your case except for your lawyer.
- Be polite and respectful to the police during your arrest and while in police custody. If you are rude or angry towards the police, this can and will create further problems for you.
- Do not contact the accuser. This sage advice applies to both the periods before and after you are charged by the police. If you are released on bail conditions, one of your conditions will be not to communicate or associate directly or indirectly with the alleged victim and possibly other Crown witnesses. If you contact them, you will be arrested, your bail could be revoked and you could face a jail term for breach of your bail conditions. No good can come from you contacting the complainant or other Crown witnesses. Trust the system and let your lawyer do the work to attempt to absolve your reputation.
- Speak the truth. In all conversations with your lawyer, be completely open and honest. Fully and truthfully answer any questions that your lawyer asks you. They are obligated to maintain confidentiality. Being truthful helps them build a strong defence for you. Hiding facts from your lawyer will only hurt your case and create damaging surprises at your trial.
- Document communications. Keep track of and preserve all phone calls, text messages, social media messages, and emails relating to your case. Share these with your lawyer.
- Find witnesses. Work with your lawyer to provide them with the contact information for any defence witnesses who can confirm your version of events or help your case.
How a Toronto Sexual Assault Lawyer Can Help
In the face of possibly tremendous stigma, you need a competent lawyer on your side. A skilled criminal lawyer can analyze the police evidence and strategize to develop a strong and compelling defence case for you. It can be the difference between life-changing penalties and a full acquittal. But a good lawyer’s duties extend beyond winning the case for you.
Protecting your reputation in the court of public opinion is very important. From the initial accusation through the pre-trial and trial stages, your lawyer will be with you every step of the way. This includes any involvement with the Crown, media, and police. They can also provide valuable advice on how to navigate potential challenges with personal and professional relationships.