Indigenous teen says RCMP video supports claim her rape complaint was ignored - InfoNews

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Indigenous teen says RCMP video supports claim her rape complaint was ignored

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May 13, 2019 - 6:30 PM

"DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT AN INVESTIGATION LIKE THIS COSTS A LOT OF MONEY?"

KELOWNA - Jane Smith was 17 years old and in foster care when she was raped in 2012 but no one believed her — not the doctors and nurses who examined her, not her social workers and not the police officer who took her statement.

She suspects her social workers, the people responsible for her care in the absence of her parents, actively dissuaded authorities from investigating, a point that was touched upon in a civil suit filed earlier this year. Now she has her hands on new information that she believes supports that view. Her lawyer has obtained video of the RCMP interview that followed her sexual assault and last week she watched it for the first time, inviting media to view it also.

“I feel angry — very angry I was mistreated. If I had a healthy parent … no parent would allow this to happen,” she said, from her home in Kelowna. “I’m still waiting for the adults who abused me to be held accountable.”

She said the video shows how she and other aboriginal teens in care are treated, in particular when reporting sexual assault.

The man who raped her was an acquaintance. They rode the same bus, got talking, then she went with him to his house and later that night he forced himself on her.

When she went home, she told her foster parents what happened and they took her to Kelowna General Hospital for a medical exam. Halfway through, she said, the nurses and RCMP officer stopped gathering evidence.

She said that’s when she felt like she was being accused of a crime, not someone who’d fallen victim to one.

“You told the constable last night, you told him… you didn’t remember (what happened.) You said that you went on the bus, then you remember being at (the attacker's) house,” an RCMP officer says in the interview.

“It’s been a day I’ve been able to remember more,” Smith says. The officer points out inconsistencies in her testimony, like how she at one point claimed to not know her attacker. Or how, at another time, claimed she may have been drugged.

Back in the video, she explains to the RCMP officer she never wanted to make an RCMP complaint, she just wanted to go to the hospital and get an examination.

“Do you understand that an investigation like this costs a lot of money?” he asks.

“But I didn’t want to be here,” she says

“But now we are, and now we need closure,” he says.

“It’s done, there’s nothing more to say, you guys don’t believe me… How do you want me to close this? Lie and say nothing happened it’s all my imagination?” Smith says.

The officer says he doesn’t want her to lie but things aren’t adding up. If she was raped, why didn’t she run from the house screaming, he asks her. He also says it’s strange that she offered her attacker a condom.

She explains she knew it was going to happen and using a condom was at least better.

By this time in the video, she has repeatedly told the officer that she told her attacker ’no’ and did not consent. Frustration sets in.

Watching the video again, she said, "this is where they break me,” indicating it’s when she realized it wasn't worth it to proceed. She stopped calling the assault a rape and started telling the officer it was a bad sexual encounter just to end it.

Looking at the video now, Smith said it’s hard to watch her young self acquiesce to the view offered by police. She stands by her initial story and says that she was raped. What’s been harder, however, is still living with the shame and frustration of reporting her attack to RCMP and all the things that happened in the aftermath. They are already outlined in a court document.

The RCMP have not yet responded to a request for comment about the video. 

Smith filed a civil suit against the social workers involved in this incident, including Robert Riley Saunders, who faces abuse complaints from 17 clients, including many indigenous clients like her. The vast majority of her complaint is against Siobahn Stynes, who was Saunders’ direct supervisor.

 

Most of the lawsuits filed naming Saunders involve money, alleging he found a way to skim or take all financial assistance paid to his young clients — their subsidies for food, clothing and shelter — while many of them lived on the streets.

Smith’s case broadens the scope of allegations and most are a result of her contact with Stynes.

”Stynes and the plaintiff’s foster parents accused (Smith) of falsifying the allegation for an excuse for using drugs, however, (Smith) was not on drugs at the material time,” she said in her claim against Saunders and Stynes.

None of the allegations or claims have been proven in court.

“(Stynes), arriving at her own conclusion in regards to the allegation, punished the plaintiff by removing extracurricular activities from the plaintiff causing isolation and depression.”

It said Stynes instructed and caused Smith to write a letter of apology to her attacker. At this point, no meaningful investigation was done.

“The defendant, Stynes, berated, demeaned, bullied and caused the plaintiff emotional harm,” she said in the claim.

This was an example of she was harmed by the process in addition to the attack, she claimed. She also blames the ministry beyond Saunders and Stynes because they failed to mitigate the damage.

Smith claimed damages, a restraining order as well as a return on costs.

“I was failed by my social workers, by the West Kelowna police department and I don’t feel like I had any advocates in that time,” she said. “And now I have to work with social workers … and I find it difficult to let them in to my home or meet up with them. I am afraid if I do one thing wrong they will come in and take my kid.”

She said she’s also afraid to report to the police, never filed a complaint about an abusive spouse, though others did.

This distrust is not something that’s unique to her, she said, aboriginal youth are not supported by the system.

“We all share the same story,” she said. “In the year I was in care, 62 per cent of the kids in care were aboriginal — the scoop never stopped.”


To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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