'Sexsomnia' defence expected in Ontario sexual assault trial
Published Sunday, November 18, 2018 4:37PM EST
An Ottawa-area woman will yet again face the man convicted of raping her seven years ago after a judge ordered a new trial based on the man’s new defence: sexsomnia.
The 30-year-old woman, whose name is protected by a publication ban, told CTV Ottawa that she fell asleep on an air mattress after a party at a friend’s house in Brockville, Ont., one night and woke up with pain in her buttocks.
“I fell asleep with my arms wrapped around my boyfriend and I woke up in pain and realized I was being assaulted,” she said.
Ryan Hartman, a stranger to the woman, was charged with sexual assault. He was convicted in May 2012 and sentenced to 14 months imprisonment. Hartman quickly appealed the conviction, which was upheld.
Hartman appealed again, this time to the Ontario Court of Appeal. In that appeal, the defence argued that Hartman had a history of sleepwalking and that his girlfriend had witnessed other incidents of sexsomnia.
Sexsomnia is a sleep disorder where people engage in sexual behaviours while sleeping. It is formally recognized by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, widely used by psychologists.
The woman involved says the new trial has re-traumatized her but that she’s a “survivor.”
“I will never believe that he was sleeping when it happened,” she said.
University of Ottawa law professor Blair Crew told CTV Ottawa that “people unfamiliar with sleepwalking cannot believe that this defense is actually viable,” but that it has been used successfully in the past.
In 2005, an Ontario man was found not criminally responsible for sexual assault on the basis of sexsomnia. Four previous girlfriends testified that he had engaged in “sleep sex” in the past.
In 2016, an appeals court judge in Newfoundland ordered a new trial in the case of a man convicted of sexually touching his sister, after a forensic psychiatrist concluded he likely suffered from sexsomnia.
With files from CTV Ottawa and The Canadian Press