'It ruined my trust in police': Young woman questioned by Kelowna RCMP in sex assault case speaks out
She was 17 years old, and in foster care, when she says a social worker brought her to the Kelowna RCMP detachment in 2012 to report a sexual assault.
Video of the police interrogation has sparked outrage amongst woman's advocates and in Canada's parliament.
Now 24, the young Indigenous woman in the center of it all is speaking out about her experience.
The woman, whose identity is being protected, spoke in an exclusive interview with The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.
“It’s so hard to watch because the questions are just disgusting,” the woman said.
In one exchange from the video, the officer asked: “Were you turned on during this at all, even a little bit?” to which the woman responds, "No." The exchange continues:
Officer: Physically, you weren’t at all responsive to his advances, even maybe, um, subconsciously?
Youth: Maybe subconsciously, but no, not…I was really scared.
The woman told APTN she thought she was going to get justice, but it wasn’t long before she felt like she was being accused.
Officer: I need you to be a little more honest with me
Youth: I am being honest. I didn’t consent, but I didn’t say no.
Officer: So, you just went along with it.
Youth: I was scared. I didn’t know what else to do.
And in another exchange:
Officer: A guy tries to have sex with a female and the female is completely unwilling, it’s very difficult. Right?
Youth: Yes, yeah, it hurt a lot.
Victim forced to say sorry
The woman said she ended up being accused of making a false allegation and was forced to write apology letters to her social worker, foster parents and the RCMP officer. It’s unclear if the accused, an older acquaintance, was ever interviewed and no charges were laid in the case.
“It ruined my trust in police completely,” the woman said.
The Executive Director of Battered Women’s Support Services, Angela Marie MacDougall, called the line of questioning “victim-blaming."
“It’s voyeuristic, it’s appalling, and the professionalism lacking in this case is unconscionable in the 21st century,” MacDougall said.
She questioned why a vulnerable minor was put in that kind of position in the first place, and said bringing an advocate along to a police interview is an option.
“What we know is that when a woman has an advocate, that there’s a better chance for a better response from systems. There’s a better chance for accountability for that system, and there’s a better chance for the survivor to have individual support, information, and the support in order to navigate the criminal legal system,” MacDougall said.
The woman said she did feel alone at the time.
“It was hard because most kids have their parents, but being in foster care, I had none of that," she said.
CTV News has been told the officer in the video is still working at the Kelowna detachment. The RCMP are not commenting, citing ongoing legal proceedings, but said in an emailed statement that new training for officers is a priority.
“Training on myths surrounding sexual assault and consent law is already available,” the statement reads. “A course on interviewing witnesses and victims was recently updated. Cultural competency training, trauma-informed investigations training and an advanced course for sexual assault investigators are under development.”
The woman said she ultimately felt punished for coming forward.
“It helps me today knowing that people actually believe me, what happened,” she said. “It means a lot.”