RCMP settle controversial civil suit involving Indigenous Kelowna teen's rape complaint | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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RCMP settle controversial civil suit involving Indigenous Kelowna teen's rape complaint

Aden Withers wants people to know she's more than an unfounded statistic.
January 28, 2020 - 6:39 PM

Aden Withers closed a chapter on a painful life event today and started on a bright future that seemed unattainable just a year ago.  

That's around the time Withers filed a civil suit against the RCMP, the Ministry of Children and Family Development as well as several social workers and former RCMP Cpl. Kent Hall, for the treatment received while making a 2012 rape complaint.

Yesterday, Jan. 27, the case was settled. The details are confidential, but Withers and the RCMP said that mediation of all legal claims related to the incident have been settled to the satisfaction of all parties. 

"We regret this incident and remain committed to improving how our employees respond to victims and investigate allegations of sexual assault.  This incident highlighted the importance for the RCMP to continue to review and update our sexual assault investigative training, practices and policies," Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, Senior Media Relations, for the RCMP said in a statement.

For Withers there will also be change.

"I'm hoping to build my life up from this, go back to school, buy a house and a car and just make things better for my son and me," Withers, whose voice was noticeably drained from the "emotionally exhausting process," said.

"Going forward I am going to pursue a career and path in advocacy ... I hope to one day be working against the people who put me in this position."

In March 2012 Withers, who is Indigenous and had been taken from her mother and moved into foster care, was 17 years old. She was on her way to her foster home one night when she met up with an acquaintance and he allegedly raped her.

When Withers finally made it home that night and told her foster parents what happened, they took her to Kelowna General Hospital for a medical exam.

Halfway through, Withers claimed, the nurses and RCMP officers mysteriously stopped gathering evidence.

The next day when she went to make a statement, Withers said she stopped being a victim of a crime and started being treated like the perpetrator.

In portions of a two-hour video interrogation that made national headlines and sparked widespread condemnation earlier this year,  Hall can be heard asking Withers questions like, whether she enjoyed the encounter with her accused attacker.

He asked whether it was painful because, he claimed, that’s how you can tell it's a sexual assault. He also asked if Withers knows how much a rape investigation costs.

When all was said and done, Withers felt compelled to withdraw the rape complaint and was asked by social workers to write an apology letter to all involved, including the alleged attacker.

He, on the other hand, was never the subject of an investigation, let alone charged.

The lawsuit launched in 2019 detailed the suffering that ensued, noting that Withers suffered from, among other things, PTSD, diminished self-worth, diminished ability to concentrate, repeated and ongoing nightmares, depression and anxiety from this encounter. 

Withers learned then that help wouldn't come easily when it was needed and that the authorities weren't always there to help. Distrust became the norm.  

Since the lawsuit was launched there has been some help. Therapy has addressed those issues and the support found when the story of the attack, dealings with police and social worker  was shared has softened the effects of the blows dealt years earler.  Withers found people who believe the details of that attack and now sees a brighter future ahead.

"I feel like I've empowered people to come forward and that's amazing in itself because coming forward is a really tough thing to do," Withers, who has been advocating for those who have been sexually assaulted and have had their complaints fall on deaf ears,  said. 

The story of her attack and the treatment that ensued has become a rallying call in Kelowna, where the 40 per cent unfounded rate has been the subject of a great deal of concern and conversation.

"I know that now, because of my case, many other people will come forward and there will be more conversations like there were yesterday.  It took almost a decade to achieve what I've done."

That doesn't mean that "racism and sexism and abuse of power and authority" are subjects Withers intends to stop talking about.

"I am going to be doing advocacy work for the rest of my life," Withers said.  "I'll be doing what I do. Sharing my story and hoping to empower other people to share their stories."

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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