A young Indigenous B.C. woman who went to police after allegedly being sexually assaulted as a teenager says she has been retraumatized after watching a video of a lone male RCMP investigator asking her if she was “turned on” by the attack.
The 2012 video, which was released as part of disclosure in an ongoing civil suit, shows the then 16-year-old teenager sitting in a room in the Kelowna RCMP detachment with a male officer as he asks if she’s aware the alleged offender might have to go to jail.
“Were you at all turned on during this at all, even a little bit?” the officer asks.
“No,” the woman replies.
“Physically at all, you weren’t at all responsive to his advances, even maybe … subconsciously?” he asks.
“Maybe subconsciously, maybe. But no — not. I was really scared.”
‘How could that be appropriate?’
The woman, who is now 24, decided to make the video public after it was provided to her by her lawyers.
She cannot be identified because she was a minor at the time and is also part of a civil suit against a former Kelowna social worker.
She said the alleged sexual assault and the RCMP interview left her shattered. Seeing the video has brought everything back.
“It’s very horrifying, my mental health couldn’t take it, so I ended up in the hospital so I could process it,” the woman told the CBC.
“It’s a ghost hanging over you all the time, and it’s in your mindset for the rest of your life that you can no longer trust authority.”
The girl’s lawyer, Michael Patterson, says the video speaks for itself. He says she was a fragile youth in government care and was treated like a liar from the outset.
The officer in the video makes clear that he wants to probe inconsistencies in the girl’s story and warns her that he may ask some uncomfortable questions.
But Patterson says the manner in which the interview is conducted is unacceptable.
“Regardless of the back story, regardless of what they think — someone complaining about sexual assault, do you ask them questions such as ‘were you turned on by this?’ and ‘why did you not fight back?” he said.
“In any universe whatsoever, how could that be appropriate?”
‘You didn’t put up much of a fight’
RCMP would not comment on the video itself, citing restrictions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, an ongoing Criminal Code matter and civil litigation proceedings.
“However, we believe that the ongoing judicial processes may allow for a fulsome disclosure of all the 2012 investigative findings and actions for assessment,” the statement says.
“Respecting the limitations in place, we do understand there is a greater discussion taking place around sexual assault investigations.”
The statement goes on to say a new advanced course for sexual assault investigators is in the works, as is training around cultural competency and “trauma-informed investigations.”
The girl is one of nearly a dozen plaintiffs suing former Kelowna-based social worker Robert Riley Saunders for allegedly using his position to cut them off from family support and deprive them of funds.
Several of the plaintiffs have claimed Saunders removed them from foster homes to set them up on their own and siphon off their government funds.
Some have claimed they were sexually assaulted as a result of being left to fend for themselves or being placed with unsuitable foster parents.
The girl was in foster care at the time she complained to RCMP that she was allegedly assaulted by an acquaintance.
The video of the interview was released after a B.C. Supreme Court application that saw a judge order disclosure of material related to the 2012 alleged sexual assault.
Patterson questions why no foster parent or social worker was with her when she was questioned alone.
“You didn’t put up much of a fight, that’s the concern I have,” the officer in the video says.
“I didn’t consent though,” she says.
“You’re alleging something that could completely ruin someone’s life, you understand that, right?”
In the video, when the officer asks her why she didn’t use the words “no” during the assault, she says she froze.
At one point in the video, the officer asks the girl what telling people will get her. She replies that she needs help to recover because she was molested by her grandfather. The officer tells her that he heard about that and it is horrible.
“Nobody believed me then and nobody believes me now,” she says.
“I have no reason to disbelieve what happened in your past, but I do have a lot of concerns about your story here,” the officer says.
After seeing a recording of the video on APTN, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer raised it in question period in Ottawa, asking Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale for an update.
“What was revealed in that video was absolutely abhorrent,” Goodale responded.
“No survivor of sexual assault should ever fear that his or her case will not be taken seriously or that he or she will be re-victimized in the process.”