Faculty Author Type

Current Faculty [Janine Benedet] & Current Faculty [Isabel Grant]

Published In

Feminist Legal Studies

Document Type


Publication Date



criminal law, sexual assault, consent, disability, abuse of power


The sexual assault of persons with mental disabilities (also described as cognitive, intellectual and developmental disabilities) occurs at alarmingly high rates worldwide. These assaults are a form of gender-based violence intersecting with discrimination based on disability. Our research on the treatment of such cases in the Canadian criminal justice system demonstrates the systemic barriers these victims face at the level of both substantive legal doctrine and trial procedure. Relying on feminist legal theory and disability theory, we argue in this paper that abuses of trust and power underlie most sexual assaults of women with mental disabilities. We argue that existing Criminal Code provisions in Canada are inadequate to address this type of exploitation because courts have consistently failed to recognize that such abuses of power and trust are fundamentally inconsistent with any notion of voluntary consent.



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