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Elaine Craig – 2024 Dorothy Killam Fellow

Deepening the understanding of legal responses to sexual violence: Examining police, crown and judicial processes in sexual assault cases

Dalhousie University

Elaine Craig is a Professor of Law at Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University and Director of Research at Watershed Legal Projects (formerly the Canadian Center for Legal Innovation in Sexual Assault Response [CCLISAR] co-founded by Craig in 2018).

Craig’s research examines how the decades of law reforms in Canada aimed at eliminating discriminatory stereotypes and practices from Canadian sexual assault law have yet to achieve their intended efforts. Despite these groundbreaking reforms, the impact in terms of rates of reporting, conviction, attrition and sexualized violence itself, has been negligible.

While there has been a great deal of research examining judicial reasoning in sexual assault cases, there has been very little study of Crown processing of sexual assault cases, the practice of sexual assault law, the investigation of sexual offences, or sexual assault trials themselves. Our current lack of empirical knowledge creates significant barriers to improving access to justice for survivors generally, but in particular for individuals marginalized on the basis of race, Indigeneity, citizenship, ableism, gender identity and orientation, and poverty. To understand why law reforms have fallen short and determine how we might advance legal responses to sexualized violence in ways that will achieve measurable improvements we must know more about the processing of sexual assault cases. 

As an outstanding scholar in the field who has had significant influence on multiple legal institutions, Craig’s research aims to greatly improve our empirical understanding of legal process in relation to sexual offences.

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