Link Between Child Sexual Assault and Animal Sexual Assault

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21
2:15 PM - 3:15 PM
Location: Chelsea Hotel, Churchill Ballroom

SPEAKERS: 
Debra Danco, Associate Counsel, Canadian Center for Child Protection Inc.
Monique St. Germain, General Counsel, Canadian Center for Child Protection Inc.

ABSTRACT:
Section 160 of the Criminal Code prohibits "bestiality", compelling anyone (an adult or a child) to commit bestiality and committing bestiality in the presence of a child. In June 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision in R v DLW, clarifying that the term "bestiality", which is not currently defined in the Criminal Code, captures only "penetrative" sexual acts involving a human and an animal.

Given the severity of offending that was present in the D.L.W. case, and recognizing that the bestiality offence plays an important role in prohibiting and denouncing sexual acts that involve animals and children, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc. ("C3P") set out to learn more about bestiality offending in Canada. Initially, the objective was to determine how often “penetration” had actually occurred in Canadian cases. However, once the case list was assembled, it became apparent that the cases could reveal much richer information, and that the information could form a starting point for assessing the adequacy of current responses, not only in relation to the definition of bestiality, but also on the issue of risk to humans and animals.

C3P located and analyzed 38 reported cases from Canadian courts where a bestiality charge was laid, or where sexual contact with an animal was an element of the behaviour referred to in the case. Understanding how child sexual abuse material plays a role in the sexual abuse of children, C3P also looked into cases that involved possession of "child pornography" charges (as defined in the Criminal Code) where the accused's collection was noted to contain bestiality imagery, in an effort to determine the role imagery may play. In addition to case law sources, information from Cybertip.ca, Canada's national tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children, about reported visual content assessed as involving bestiality was also analyzed. The information that could be gleaned from the above sources were published in December 2018 in the paper, "Bestiality" as reflected in Canadian case law, which is available free of charge on CanLII.org.

Since publication, and as part of its regular monitoring of reported criminal cases from Canadian courts, C3P continues to locate cases of individuals either committing or compelling bestiality, or possessing/sharing visual content depicting bestiality. (Note: this means bestiality in the broad sense of the word, meaning any sexual activity with an animal, as opposed to the very limited definition prescribed through the DLW decision.

One of the links that became apparent from the analyzed data is the link between child sexual abuse and animal sexual abuse. In fact, for 82% (31 out of 38) of the reported Canadian cases that involved bestiality activity, the sexual abuse of a child (or children) occurred as frequently as, if not more frequently than, the coerced sexual activity involving an animal. Overall, the research revealed many cases that involved numerous instances of sexual assault, multiple victims, extended offending periods, recording of the abuse, and other markers of severity. The increasing role of technology to incite and/or facilitate this type of abuse was also apparent from the data collected.

The major findings from the paper, as well as case law issued since publication that is on point, will be presented. The objective of the presentation will be to share the information from the paper, as well as explore opportunities and ideas to assess and manage the risk presented by individuals who victimize animals.

KEY LEARNINGS:

  1. Understanding the link between child sexual abuse and animal sexual abuse, and its implications for risk assessment and management.
  2. Understanding the role played by technology, particularly the increasing frequency of visual recordings of bestiality activity, "chats" about bestiality activity, and online sources focused on this type of "pornography".
  3. Understanding the need for legislative and public policy reform in this area, as well as the key recommendations for action developed by C3P.

BIOS:
Debra Danco is an Associate Counsel in the Legal Department of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc., located in Winnipeg. Debra joined the Centre as an articling student in 2013, after completing her law studies at the University of Victoria. She was then called to the Bar in Manitoba in 2014. Prior to law school, Debra obtained a Bachelor of Commerce (Cooperative Education) (with distinction) with a major in Accounting from the University of Alberta. Debra is a member of both the Canadian Bar Association and the Manitoba Bar Association, and is a Member-at-Large of the Legal Research Section of the Manitoba Bar Association. In her spare time, she is a Board Member for two non-profit organizations based in Winnipeg, and is also an avid hiker and canoeist.

Monique St. Germain is General Counsel of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc. Monique took on this role in 2010, after having a varied career that included 5 years in private practice at a large Winnipeg law firm, nearly 10 years at Manitoba Telecom Services Inc., and 2 years at the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Law. In her current role, Monique leads all activities carried out by the Centre's legal team (3 lawyers, 2 law students). The legal team works collaboratively with and supports the work of all of the programs and services provided by the Canadian Centre, conducts research, and closely monitors case law that relates to the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in order to identify gaps and inform the Centre's position on a variety of legal and public policy issues. Monique has appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada (R. v. Barabash 2015 SCC 29), presented numerous times before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, and conducted numerous presentations to Crown Attorneys and others.