Suing for Silence
176 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 Mar 2024

Suing for Silence

Sexual Violence and Defamation Law

SERIES: Law and Society
UBC Press

The arrival of the #MeToo movement was long overdue, putting sexual violence in the spotlight and opening up public discussion of the problem. It also sparked a global anti-feminist backlash. Suing for Silence is a groundbreaking examination of how abusive men use defamation lawsuits as a weapon against anyone who attempts to hold them accountable.

As Mandi Gray demonstrates, Canadian defamation law is being employed to silence survivors and advocates who speak out about sexual violence, perpetuating the myth that false allegations are common. Gray draws on media reports, courtroom observations, and interviews with silence breakers, activists, and lawyers from across Canada to examine the impact of so-called liar lawsuits on those who report or are thinking of reporting sexual violence, and on public discourse. Her meticulous work reveals the gendered underpinnings of defamation law, which has long protected men’s reputations at the expense of women’s sexual autonomy.

Suing for Silence argues that such suits ought to be recognized as Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPPs), whose purpose is not justice but to intimidate, silence, and drain the financial and emotional resources of those who speak out against sexual violence and even report their own assaults – and to discourage others from doing the same. Sexual violence discourse must have adequate protection if it is to be heard.

Researchers in socio-legal studies, victimology, law, psychology, and sociology will find this a powerfully convincing work. It will also be invaluable to lawyers specializing in defamation and sexual violence litigation, survivors of sexual violence, feminist activists, sexual assault centre workers, and policy and lawmakers.

Mandi Gray has produced an intriguing and original book based on strong feminist research. Suing for Silence provides a complex analysis of defamation lawsuits as backlash against accusations of sexual violence and the harms of these strategic lawsuits for the individuals involved, for survivors who have yet to come forward, and for society at large. Charlene Y. Senn, Canada Research Chair in Sexual Violence, University of Windsor

Mandi Gray is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Trent University, lecturing in criminology, and an anti-violence activist. She is regularly featured in Canadian media on issues pertaining to sexual violence, including in the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, and Toronto Life, and on the CBC.

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