Warning: This story discusses sexual assault
In the wake of musician Jacob Hoggard being sentenced to five years in jail for sexually assaulting an Ottawa woman, one advocate says the drawn-out case highlights the challenges victims face in coming forward.
“(The survivor) talked about how because of the delays, she had to relive this experience for much longer than she should have, and I think, will five years make her feel like she’s got justice? Probably not,” Bailey Reid, a sexual violence prevention advocate based in Ottawa, told CTV National News.
She’s concerned that a combination of traumatizing elements in this case — its duration, its public element and aspects of the defence — may actually make more sexual assault survivors hesitant to report in the future.
“I think this would discourage women from coming forward,” she said.
The sentencing came Thursday after Hoggard was found guilty in June of sexually assaulting an Ottawa woman six years ago in a hotel room.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Gillian Roberts said she accepted the woman’s account in its entirety, and described the rape as involving “gratuitous violence.”
The Crown had asked for a sentence of six to seven years, while the defence suggested Hoggard only be jailed for three to four years.
“In terms of the sentencing, I always think about survivors and to me, the most important thing is that the survivors get the outcome that they are seeking,” Reid said.
“From what I heard of the survivors’ statements and the impact statements that were read in the court, I don’t know that five years would have been enough to see justice.”
Just hours after he was sentenced on Thursday, Hoggard attended a bail hearing and was later granted bail pending the outcome of an appeal of his conviction.
This means he won’t be facing jail time just yet.
The judge ultimately decided that Hoggard did not present enough of a risk to society to keep him behind bars until the appeal came to court, and Reid said that some of the reasoning presented was frustrating to hear.
At one point, the discussion in the courtroom turned to psychological assessments and whether or not Hoggard had “some sot of paraphilia that we can account this violence to, some sort of mental sickness,” Reid said — a framing that she thinks is completely unhelpful.
“Sexual violence happens, again, from people all across the board,” she said, explaining that framing it as the result of a “paraphilia” can be damaging.
While assessing his potential threat level to society, the judge mentioned that Hoggard’s loss of status as a musician due to this sexual assault case means that he won’t have the same access to potential victims in the future.
Reid felt this wasn’t relevant in assessing his potential to re-offend.
“We know that he could still meet women anywhere and cause harm,” she said. “They said that he’s grown and matured and learned things — (but) to chalk the attacks that his survivors faced up to just not knowing, I don’t think is true. I think he did know, and I think a lot of people maybe knew and had a role to play.”
Reid said it felt hugely important to hear the judge say she believed the woman who recounted her sexual assault, pointing out that in some cases, judges themselves cast doubt on survivors.
“I think hearing a judge say ‘I believe you’ was really powerful,” Reid said.
“However, it was also balanced with a lot of character praise of Jacob Hoggard. That was problematic to me, and I thought for a lot of the survivors who came forward — and the ones who didn’t come forward — hearing those kinds of comments from a judge was probably really negatively impactful.”
At one point, the conversation turned to Hoggard’s vegetable garden, and how he donated vegetables to his community — a fact irrelevant to his crime, Reid said.
“It’s a problem when we think of sexual violence in a ‘good or bad person’ dichotomy,” she said.
“People can cause harm, and gendered harm particularly, and also grow vegetables. So we can’t just say because he gave vegetables to his neighbours, there’s no way he could have done this harm.”
A RE-TRAUMATIZING PROCESS
In her impact statement, the Ottawa woman said her life was “shattered” by this assault, and the court case was hugely difficult.
“I was shown a video of a woman that wasn’t even me and berated until I said it was,” she said in the statement. “No one should ever have to endure the cruelty I faced in this court room.”
Victims have to tell police what happened to them first, risking police officers downplaying their assault, Reid said, and then repeat it in court while being questioned as a witness.
“Then to have to come back in an appeal if the appeal is granted and there is another trial — these are all really huge barriers for reporting sexual violence,” she said.
“I think we also have to think about how the justice system is accessible to different women. So if you’re a white woman, versus if you’re a racialized woman, if you’re a woman with a disability, if you’re a trans or non-binary person, these are all identities that shape the way you experience the justice system.”
Sexual assault crisis lines, and a list of other resources, can be found here.