Many empirical studies have demonstrated that woman who are victims of violence assume a sense of rights consciousness (…)

By Ayah Barakat, First Year English Common Law student

Many empirical studies have demonstrated that woman who are victims of violence assume a sense of rights consciousness. The way in which a woman takes on a rights-defined identity depends on her experiences with the law. Contact with legal officials influence the degree to which a victim is ready to assume this new identity.  Dealings with legal officials are all indications of how seriously the legal system takes a woman’s rights. The more serious they are in asserting her rights, the more a women is likely to take on this new identity. Conversely, if her rights are deemed to be weightless and insignificant, she may decide to withdraw and no longer view her grievances in terms of rights. Many women who engage with the courts for sexual abuse cases eventually end up abandoning them for a position that is less challenging. A women’s subject position thus heavily depends on the experience she encounters during the court process. Justice L’Heureux Dubé has been very cognizant of these issues and this has been demonstrated in her concurring judgment in R v. Ewanchuk, [1999] 1 S.C.R. 330. She discussed how rape myths affect the way in which grievances are handled and attempted to assert a new version of reality. Justice L’Heureux Dubé used her right to dissent in many cases and articulated a new legal understanding of many social issues. Justice L’Heureux Dubé is a woman of convictions, a role model, and a woman whose legacy I faithfully hope to continue.

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