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Kelowna's unfounded rate focus of community attention

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January 13, 2020 - 6:30 AM

Aden Withers has become the face of Kelowna’s unfounded rate and it’s a reality she’s coming to terms with.

“I’m glad to be helping shed light on a lot of various issues within the RCMP and I am inspired by the people who have come forward because of it —  it's a hard decision to make, to be public about sexual assault,” Withers, who has been in therapy since she gained national attention earlier this year when a video of her attempting to file a complaint was released. She was a teen at the time, and the RCMP officer asked interrogated her as though she had made up the encounter.

“I hope I can encourage people to report sexual assaults. Now Kelowna investigations are being monitored by Ottawa and they have a lower unfounded rate. I want (survivors) to know there's still security out there for them. The more we report even if it goes unfounded there will be people who believe you, that's what we want people to know.”


That’s just one thing Withers will be speaking about later this month at an Elizabeth Fry society,  UBC Okanagan event titled Unfounded.


It’s a panel discussion exploring accountability and structural change for sexual assault survivors.

“My aim is to educate people. I’ll be sharing my story and providing insight into how my current therapy is going and how I think sexual assault cases should be handled from a survivor’s point of view,” she said.

Withers is among a group of women who have been trying to rally community support to implement systemic change with the RCMP.

They’re hoping the local RCMP will implement a sexual assault response team and they’ve collected at least 100 pages of signatures to support that direction.

While much of the feedback has been positive in the collection of signatures, Withers said men are less likely to sign the petition and she hopes that will change. She thinks more discussions, like the one being held at UBC Okanagan later in the month, will help with that.

Statistics Canada has reported the rate of sexual assaults deemed “unfounded” by the Kelowna RCMP was 37 per cent in 2018. The agency said in July that, nationally, 11 per cent of sexual-assault cases reported to police were classified as unfounded in 2018, down from 14 per cent in 2017.

The term “unfounded” means that the investigating officer did not believe that a crime had occurred.

Withers made a rape complaint that was considered unfounded years ago.

In the video released earlier this year, the country was shocked by her treatment.

“Were you turned on at all by this at all… even a little bit,”  West Kelowna RCMP Const. Kent Hall asked her in the now-infamous interview that quickly made its way around the country.

“No,” she said.

“Physically you weren’t at all responsive to his advances … even maybe subconsciously,” he asked.

Withers has filed a lawsuit against the RCMP, the officer and others involved in the case.

The event will be held Jan. 22 at UBC Okanagan.

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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