All that Glitters is Not Gold: The False Promise of Victim Impact Statements
“All That Glitters Is Not Gold: The False Promise of Victim Impact Statements” in Elizabeth Sheehy, ed. Sexual Assault in Canada: Law, Legal Practice and Women’s Activism. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2012, pp 665-700.
36 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2014
Date Written: 2012
This chapter interrogates whether or not the criminal justice system holds potential for fairly representing women’s experiences of harm while affirming their dignity, equality, and autonomy. Specifically, Rakhi Ruparelia questions the opportunity to present a "victim impact statement" (VIS) to the judge who is sentencing a sex offender. While not opposing a criminalization strategy, as do Alison Symington and Julie Desrosiers in the specific contexts discussed in their respective chapters, Rakhi expresses similar skepticism that the law permitting the filing of a VIS is actually premised on deeply conservative ideologies regarding who are "real victims" and what their proper role in the criminal justice system is. Like the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit originally touted as a positive development for women, the VIS is more likely to be used to discredit women’s claims than to validate them when it comes to sexual assault. Rakhi explores systemic racism in sentencing and argues persuasively that Aboriginal and racialized men will bear the brunt of VIS use and that Aboriginal and racialized women have little if anything to gain from the VIS. The VIS, she argues, is really about appeasing "victims" and maintaining the individualized focus of the criminal justice system.
Keywords: criminal justice system, women, experiences, harm, dignity, equality, victim impact statement, sex offender, sentencing, victims, sexual assault, systemic racism, discredit, validate, Aboriginal, racialized, men
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation