Sex assault investigations have ‘evolved’ since West Kelowna teen’s 2012 complaint, RCMP say - InfoNews

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Sex assault investigations have ‘evolved’ since West Kelowna teen’s 2012 complaint, RCMP say

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May 16, 2019 - 10:52 AM

KELOWNA - The RCMP is saying "they've changed" in response to concerns relating to how one of their officers interrogated an Indigenous West Kelowna teen who reported being raped six years ago.

In video footage from a 2012 RCMP interview, the teen told the officer she was assaulted by an acquaintance she met up with while riding the bus home.

The RCMP officer interviewed her for over an hour, asking questions about whether she fought off her attacker enough or had sent mixed signals.

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

“Were you turned on at all by this at all … even a little bit,” the West Kelowna RCMP officer asked.

“No,” she said.

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

“No, I was really scared,” she said.

“OK because you understand that when a guy tries to have sex with a female and the female is completely unwilling it is very difficult,” he said.

The RCMP was contacted for comment on this story last Friday, May 10, and on Wednesday, May 15, released a statement saying the RCMP it is not in a position to provide further context or perspective as the case is subject to restrictions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, an ongoing Criminal Code matter and civil litigation proceedings. They are also mindful of the Privacy Act, in addition to a number of other considerations. 

“However, we believe that the ongoing judicial processes may allow for a fulsome disclosure of all the 2012 investigative findings and actions for assessment,” said Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, from E Division Communication Services, in a statement.

“Respecting the limitations in place, we do understand there is a greater discussion taking place around sexual assault investigations. The RCMP has been public in the past around the evolution of police investigational standards and training.”

Those efforts have included strengthening police training and awareness, investigative accountability, victim support, and public education and communication.”

Shoihet said new training for RCMP officers continues to be a priority. Training on myths surrounding sexual assault and consent law is already available to employees through the RCMP’s online learning portal.

“A course on interviewing witnesses and victims was recently updated,” Shoihet said. “Cultural competency training, trauma-informed investigations training and an advanced course for sexual assault investigators are under development. We are developing this training with subject matter experts in psychology, advocacy, and sexual assault investigations.”

The RCMP is also establishing an external review model, similar to the Philadelphia Model, that can be adapted to fit the various municipal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions we police, while also adhering to the Federal Privacy Act. This includes developing national guidelines for the divisional committees’ terms of reference, mandate, composition, structure and procedures.

The woman 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.

”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.

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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