'Profoundly outdated': Interrogation of teen girl who reported sex assault sparks outrage
CTV News Vancouver
Published Wednesday, May 15, 2019 6:17PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 15, 2019 6:19PM PDT
Video showing a B.C. RCMP officer asking an underage Indigenous girl whether she was "at all turned on" during an alleged sexual assault she reported back in 2012 is drawing sharp condemnation from elected officials from across the political spectrum.
The teenager was questioned for more than two hours at the West Kelowna RCMP detachment, according to APTN News, which obtained the video while reporting on a civil lawsuit against B.C.'s Ministry of Children and Family Development.
On Wednesday, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett described the officer's handling of the interview as "totally inappropriate."
"I don't know where people get that kind of right to re-victimize somebody. It's disgusting," Bennett told reporters.
The video shows the officer pressing the girl on whether she was "at all responsive … even subconsciously" to her alleged assailant's advances.
"Were you at all turned on during this, at all? Even a little bit?" he asks.
"No," she replies.
Later, he follows up by asking: "You understand that when a guy tries to have sex with a female and the female is completely unwilling, it's very difficult, right?"
"Yeah, it hurt a lot," she responds.
The B.C. RCMP told CTV News it could not confirm whether the officer involved was ever investigated over the way the interview was conducted, or even whether he is still employed with the force.
"Unfortunately, the RCMP is not in a position to provide further context or perspective as the case is subject to restrictions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, an ongoing Criminal Code matter and civil litigation proceedings. We are also mindful of the Privacy Act, in addition to a number of other considerations," Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said in an email.
At least one MP has argued an investigation is warranted. Nathan Cullen, the NDP MP for the riding of Skeen-Bulkley Valley, said he believes the officer involved in the interview should be reprimanded.
"I don't understand how this happens," Cullen tweeted Tuesday.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer also raised the video during question period on Wednesday, calling the officer's line of questioning "appalling and insensitive to the young woman who was coming forward with her story."
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale agreed, describing the contents of the recording as "absolutely abhorrent."
"The apparent attitude and techniques that were on display in 2012 were profoundly outdated, offensive and wrong. The RCMP and all police forces must work continuously to conduct themselves appropriately. No survivor of sexual assault should ever fear that their case will not be taken seriously or that they will be re-victimized in the process," Goodale said.
According to APTN News, the man alleged to have assaulted the girl was never charged. The outlet said the teenager reported that she was assaulted while in the care of B.C.'s child welfare system.
Though Sgt. Shoihet declined to comment on the individual incident, she said the RCMP's investigational standards and training have evolved in recent years, pointing to an internal review on the force's handling of sexual assault reports that was completed in 2017.
"New training for RCMP officers continues to be a priority. Training on myths surrounding sexual assault and consent law is already available to employees through the RCMP’s online learning portal," Shoihet said.
"Cultural competency training, trauma-informed investigations training and an advanced course for sexual assault investigators are under development. We are developing this training with subject matter experts in psychology, advocacy, and sexual assault investigations."
With files from CTV News Ottawa's Rachel Aiello