Can my sexual past be used as evidence in a court case?

This information is not intended to serve as or replace legal advice. Please contact a feminist rape crisis centre, transition house or women's centre to get further information and referrals for legal advice for your specific situation.

Feminists have argued and fought to protect women's sexual history from unnecessary use in court. We know that while sexism continues to exist, no woman will have a sexual history that is acceptable. Exposure of women's past sexual activity is used to damage a woman's credibility as a witness in court. In 1992, feminists succeeded in our work to get a rape shield law that would provide protection for women from this kind of unneccessary questioning and exposure. The law basically says that a complainant's past sexual history can't be used to imply that someone is less believable as a witness or imply that they probably consented to the sexual activity (the sexual assault) based on having done that sexual activity in the past or because she had sexual relations with the accused in the past. The law provides strict guidelines to judges for how previous sexual conduct can be used by an accused person at trial.

This law has been protected by the Supreme Court of Canada many times.

If you are going to court or thinking about making a report to police and you are worried about the use of your past sexual history in court, please consider calling us or another independent feminist rape crisis centre for further information and support.

The following is the Canadian Criminal Code on evidence of a complainant's sexual history
Supreme Court upholds rape-shield law October 13, 2000
Supreme Court to decide constitutionality of rape-shield law October 10, 2000