Sex & Relationships

Usher Has Been Charged With Not Disclosing an STI. Could This Happen in Canada?

It's complicated, but the short answer is yes

R&B star Usher posing in an orange shirt and gold chain

(Photo: Getty)

The herpes allegations around Usher are only getting worse.

In August, three people—two women and one man—sued the R&B star for allegedly failing to disclose his herpes status before sex. Filed by celebrity lawyer Lisa Bloom, the joint lawsuit claims that Usher, born Usher Raymond IV, exposed these partners to the virus by withholding his alleged diagnosis (you can read more about the lawsuit here).

Usher, who has been married to his manager Grace Miguel since 2015, denies all of the allegations made against him in this lawsuit and has not commented on whether he has the virus or not. While he’s stayed silent on his herpes status, Radar Online recently revealed that Usher reportedly settled a $1.1 million USD lawsuit back in 2012 with a woman who says she got herpes from him, claiming that the singer “consciously and purposefully” withheld his diagnosis from her.

In California, where the lawsuit was filed, it’s a crime to knowingly withhold an STI diagnosis, including HIV, from a sexual partner—even if the disease is not transmitted.

So, could you get charged with spreading herpes in Canada? It’s complicated, but the short answer is yes.

“It’s sort of the same test that if you don’t disclose an STI, that would [negate] your consent to sex, so therefore it could considered a form of sexual assault,” says Sandra Ka Hon Chu, the director of research and advocacy at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

Ka Hon Chu says since Canada doesn’t have “a single HIV or STI statute in criminal law,” our legal system uses general criminal code provisions to charge people who’ve spread sexually-transmitted viruses or infections. To put it simply, knowingly spreading herpes can get you in legal trouble.

“For herpes, [charges] depends on the criminal code provision used,” Ka Hon Chu explained. “One [case] I’ve seen is ‘sexual assault causing bodily harm,’ in which case, you need to prove transmission. It’s quite complicated, but if you’re suggesting that someone actually caused you bodily harm, the bodily harm has to be proven. So, you need to prove that someone actually gave you herpes versus just exposing you to it.”

That’s where things differ for Canadians. In Usher’s case, Bloom says at least one of her clients has allegedly contracted herpes from the singer, but another client, 21-year-old Quantasia Sharpton, did not contract the virus. Sharpton said she is suing because she “never would have consented” to sex if she knew Usher had herpes—which would likely not be enough for a Canadian lawsuit. (Read the full, gross story of how Sharpton and Usher met here).

While herpes cases are rare in Canadian courtrooms, they’re not unheard of. In 2011, an Ontario man with HV-2 genital herpes was charged with aggravated assault after he had unprotected intercourse with a woman while knowing he had the virus. In 2013, a Nova Scotia woman sued an ex-boyfriend for giving her herpes in small-claims court. She was rewarded a measly $218—the maximum reward of this kind in the province.

Bottom line? Get tested regularly and always disclose any STI to a partner. While some people might argue that there are valid reasons not to disclose an STI (such the potential discrimination that may ensue, or if the STI in question has an extremely low transmission rate), from a legal perspective, if you do have herpes—and are keeping it from sexual partners like Usher is allegedly doing—you could face criminal charges.

It’s better to be safe, physically and legally, than sorry.

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