Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Sexsomnia does not = Rape?
A sexual assault victim whose assailant was found not guilty because he suffers from "sexsomnia," a rare sleep disorder, said today it's not revenge but accountability she's after as the bizarre case came before the Ontario Court of Appeal.
In the early hours of July 6, 2003, the woman was roused from sleep following a house party and croquet tournament in Toronto's Beaches community by a strange man lying on top of her, engaged in sexual intercourse.
"Who the hell are you and what are you doing?" the woman demanded, according to court documents.
"Jan," the bewildered-looking man replied.
Jan Luedecke confessed to the sexual assault, during which he was wearing a condom. But his lawyers successfully argued in 2005 that the landscaper is among a tiny fraction of the population that suffers from sexsomnia.
In fact, court heard Luedecke had engaged in "sleep sex" with four former girlfriends prior to the assault.
The trial judge acquitted Luedecke on the grounds the he could not have formed the intent to commit the assault, further concluding that his condition did not qualify as a "disease of the mind."
On Thursday, Crown prosecutor Kimberley Crosbie urged Ontario's highest court to classify Luedecke as mentally ill and order him to appear before the Ontario Review Board – a body that assesses people found not criminally responsible because of mental disorder.
The board can order a person to committed to hospital, release them into the community on certain conditions – such as refraining from alcohol or drug use – or grant them an absolute discharge.
The woman, who cannot be named, was comforted by family and friends who lined a courtroom bench during the proceedings.
Outside court, she said Luedecke has yet to face any real consequences for his actions.
"I have never been out for revenge," she said.
"I believe in accountability and consequences for actions, and to date he has not faced any of that."
When asked how the assault has affected her, she replied: "You'd probably have to stand here until tomorrow morning to let you know everything I've been through."
While the Crown also requested the court either enter a conviction or order a new trial, it's rare for a judge's decision to be overturned unless there's a significant error in law.
Instead, Thursday's arguments centered on Luedecke's mental state and public safety issues.
"I think that's the overarching concern here, the protection of the public," said Crosbie. "What we're concerned about is that nothing like this happens again."
Court heard that Luedecke, in the days before the assault, had been stressed, overworked and sleep-deprived – all identified by experts as known triggers of sexsomnia, along with alcohol consumption.
One day before the party, Luedecke drank several beers and took magic mushrooms, an illegal hallucinogen. In the hours before the assault, Luedecke said he consumed 12 beers, two rum-and-Cokes and two mixed vodka drinks.
"The public should understand that these cases, though rare, are documented in the medical literature," Frank Addario, Luedecke's lawyer, said outside the court.
"The finding at trial, which is not challenged on appeal, was that it wasn't volitional, it wasn't a deliberate choice that he made, that it was something that was done while he was unconscious."
Luedecke had been banned by the court from having contact with the woman, but that order has since expired. Court heard Thursday that he declined to agree to renew the voluntary order.
Luedecke has been living in the community for several years and isn't a threat to anyone, Addario said. "I think what the court's going to decide is whether or not the trial judge made any legal mistakes while he was deciding whether this was a mental disorder or whether it's just a sleep disorder," said Addario.
"If it's just a sleep disorder and it's unlikely to re-occur, then it's not a mental disorder and he doesn't need hospitalization and the state won't be able to follow him around."
The three judges hearing the case reserved their decision.
Sexsomnia is a form of parasomnia, or sleep disorder, that's believed to affect about three out of 100 people.
The mental damage caused by rape can be so severe, yet how can it be less severe than a sleep disorder? I believe this man had formed an intent when he did not seek help to manage his disorder through therapy, medication, and less risky behavior.
If he knows of his disorder, and does not take responsibility for it, how does this not amount to "forming an intent" to endanger himself and someone else? (in another article I found both his mother and brother suffer from the same disorder)
This is clearly a disorder he knew about and did not take responsibility for. I understand the stigmas associated with mental illness/sleep disorders but I do not sympathize or understand when people do not take responsibility for their dangerous actions. The judicial concerns with his disorder could be better focused on the outdated laws on dealing with sleep disorders.
Another big problem i see with this article is the overt focus on his mental disorder, where is the victim in all of this? Her suffering is not heard, but we have to hear about this mans stress, and disorders? Is it easier to hear about strange disorders, than to focus on the amount of sexual violence perpetuated against women?
Where do we draw the line between mental disorders and accountability?
One thing that seems clear, Canada needs to update its laws on mental/sleep disorders.
Its worth checking out the comments on the CBC website.
Article from the Toronto Star