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Pictou County Women’s Centre board chair says more sexual assault awareness needed


NEW GLASGOW The chair of the local women’s centre board says more awareness and education is needed following the acquittal of a taxi driver in a Halifax sexual assault case on Wednesday.

Bassam Al-Rawi was charged after police found a woman passed out and almost naked in his cab in May 2015. Judge Gregory Lenehan, who said “clearly a drunk can consent” during his decision, has come under fire for the ruling.

Bassam Al-Rawi was charged after police found a woman passed out and almost naked in his cab in May 2015. Judge Gregory Lenehan, who said “clearly a drunk can consent” during his decision, has come under fire for the ruling.

Meghan Breen said the Pictou County Women’s Resource and Sexual Assault Centre is disheartened and would support further investigation into the decision. 

“We would obviously disagree with those comments. Women’s centres and women’s organizations work very hard to bring more awareness to consent and when people … are able to give consent. We certainly don’t feel that somebody under the effects of alcohol or somebody who is intoxicated would be able to give consent.” 

While different amounts of alcohol affect people differently, Breen said if somebody has consumed enough that their judgment would be impaired, they, in most cases, wouldn’t be able to give full consent.

Lenehan said while it was clear she was unconscious when police saw her, it’s not known when she passed out. Her pants, that the court heard Al-Rawi was trying to hide, were also soaked with her urine and her DNA was found on his mouth.

Since the ruling, a petition has been launched for a formal inquiry against the judge and protests have been organized in Halifax. 

“I think our role as a women’s centre and as people in society is to not be silent when these things happen and to speak out…. The women’s centre does a lot of work to bring more awareness to these issues and advocate for women in these situations, however, things like this make it apparent that we need to be louder.”

She said the centre understands how difficult it is for victims of sexual assault to continue to come forward when faced with outcomes like the one in Halifax Wednesday, but added speaking out brings more awareness to the issue. The centre provides support for survivors who want to take their case to court through counselling and helping them navigate the process, she said. 

Breen also noted that she doesn’t want to paint the entire legal system with the same brush, adding that “there are judges in the province who would’ve made different decisions.”

“We would continue to encourage women and people who are victims of sexual violence to come forward and bring their cases to court with the understanding that the outcome, unfortunately, is not always going to be a positive one for people,” she said.

With files from Metro Halifax 

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