'Trauma on top of the trauma': B.C. woman speaks out after Mountie lies, fails to investigate rape report
Warning: This story contains details that may be disturbing to some readers.
A young B.C. woman describes her experience with the Kelowna RCMP as "trauma on top of the trauma."
The woman, now 20 years old, has received a formal apology from the detachment after a review found a former Mountie lied and failed to appropriately investigate a report of sexual assault.
The woman spoke with CTV News Vancouver on the condition of anonymity, and said the assault happened in September 2019 in her dorm room at UBC Okanagan.
“I was going through a bad breakup, so I was quite vulnerable when it happened. I thought he (the suspect) was supporting me as a friend but, it turns out, he wasn’t,” she said. “I said 'no' multiple times, (but) I think I just froze. Maybe it felt safer to not do anything and just, you know, just freeze than to risk fighting and getting fought back.”
The woman was in her second year of study and working as a resident adviser on campus and her alleged rapist was a co-worker. She reported the alleged rape to the university in October before eventually seeking support from a professional counsellor, who recommended she report to the police.
“I requested a female officer because I thought that that would help," she said. "It didn’t, clearly.”
The interaction that followed was the subject of an RCMP Civilian Review and Complaints Commission investigation, which ended in a report siding with the sexual assault victim's claims about how she'd been treated by the officer who took her report.
In an excerpt of the report, the investigator wrote that he agreed with her allegations of neglect of duty and improper attitude.
The allegations included that the Kelowna RCMP constable said the rape report was "not worth her time," and that comments were made doubting the authority of the victim's counsellor, who she'd brought with her when giving her statement.
“Part of what the RCMP officer told me - you didn’t scream ‘no’ and you didn’t kick him and threaten to call the police - I didn’t really know there were requirements of how loudly you had to say ‘no’ or how much you had to fight in order to be taken seriously,” the woman said.
“I remember her telling me that he was a friend and he was likely just misunderstanding the situation and just trying to be a good friend," she added. "(She told me) he was misunderstanding what was happening and I misunderstood his friendship.”
At the time, the case was closed. The woman said it wasn’t until months later that she called the detachment again to ask for her report to be investigated properly.
It was then discovered the constable had lied on the file and documented that the victim “did not want to proceed with charges.”
“I actually vividly remember crying and begging for an investigation,” the woman said.
The claims made in the complaint report were substantiated by the woman’s counsellor, who was present at the time.
On Tuesday, the superintendent of the detachment issued an apology on behalf of the Kelowna RCMP which acknowledges that Mounties failed to investigate the complaint, and that the victim was not treated properly.
In a public statement, Supt. Kara Triance said the officer involved has "retired" from the Kelowna RCMP, and that she'd apologized to the victim last month.
In the report, Triance wrote: “On behalf of the RCMP please accept my apology for the way in which you were treated and the failure to properly investigate your complaint in the first instance.”
In her public statement, Triance wrote: "I am deeply apologetic that our initial response to this incident was not in line with our investigative standards, nor was it a trauma-informed approach to sexual violence."
She committed to more training, accountability and review in the future, as well as working with partners who support survivors of violence.
"(Sexual violence is) arguably one of the most heinous interpersonal crimes an individual may have to report to police, and therefore, we need to be excellent in our standard of investigative practices," a spokesperson for the detachment wrote.
An investigator with the RCMP's sex crimes division has been assigned to the assault case, and a charge of sexual assault has been recommended.
A short time before the victim in that case approached police, the Kelowna RCMP announced the reopening of a dozen sexual assault cases following a national review.
The review, conducted by the RCMP's National Headquarters Sexual Assault Review Team, looked at the detachment's unusually high rate of "unfounded" sexual assault files. Kelowna's was the first detachment in Canada to be subject to a review from the SART.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Kendra Mangione