Dalhousie Law Journal


sexual assault, victims, relevance, complainant, psychaitric history, women, misogynist, evidence


What follows is a discussion of the use of evidence of the complainant's psychiatric history in sexual assault trials. I will argue that the introduction of this evidence is sought mainly for the purpose of discrediting the complainant's testimony, as part of an "attack the victim" strategy. The admissibility of this evidence as relevant is the product of unfounded myths and sex-biased, if not misogynist, views about women. This evidence is rarely, if ever, relevant and its minimal probative value is, in most cases, far outweighed by its potential for exacerbating or perpetuating sex bias in the sexual assault trial. I will argue that the rationale for admitting such evidence in the name of a fair trial for the accused is flawed. Moreover, the victim and society have a legitimate interest in a trial based on relevant evidence rather than myth and this interest is worthy of protection.