First Nations actor Duane Howard apologized Tuesday for what he calls “consensual sex” with a 16-year-old girl in 1993.
“I want to clarify I did not rape Lauraleigh (Paul),” Howard said in a telephone interview with APTN News.
Howard was 30-years-old at the time.
“I wanted to apologize for the one-night stand; we had casual sex.”
Howard can be heard taking several deep breaths over the phone.
“I did not know she was 16,” he added.
When Howard had his sexual encounter with Paul in 1993 the age of consent in Canada was 14. The law was raised to 16 in 2008.
The telephone interview was conducted with Howard’s publicist, Holly Carinci, listening on the line.
Howard apologized for “the incident” in a video posted to Facebook earlier Tuesday. The nearly five-minute video has since been removed.
Howard said he “apologized for this encounter” to Paul in person in 2016, and she accepted his apology.
“Since then we have had what I thought was a close friendship,” he said, noting he has private messages to this effect.
He said he has been reeling since she characterized what happened as an alleged crime on her Facebook page on Oct. 10, being unable to sleep more than a few hours a night and feeling quite emotional.
(Lauraleigh Paul in an undated Facebook photo.)
Calling it “an ugliness I no longer wished to be burdened with,” Paul described a sexual assault in a post on her Facebook page Oct. 10.
The Vancouver-based entrepreneur wrote:
“It was a violent rape. He slithered into the room, I say slithered because he literally crawled across the floor to get to me. I couldn’t breathe as he had my mouth covered and pushed into my face with his hand. I can remember how painful it was.
“My neck hurt because of the way he was keeping me quiet. His scaly skin against mine. My vagina was tearing, and it stung and burned, made me cry for days.”
Her post remains up and has been shared and commented on hundreds of times.
“They had quite a close friendship,” noted Carinci. “This has been very shocking and it’s one of the reasons he’s been so silent.
“Duane has been completely bowled over and has received nothing but hatred from the community.”
Carinci asked that, for Howard’s own safety, APTN not report his whereabouts.
She clarified that his video apology on Facebook was written by two women from his community on Vancouver Island.
“His apology – to be clear – was for what he thought was wrong by having albeit consensual sex with a teenager way back then,” Carinci said.
Howard said he took the video down on Facebook after a few hours when it seemed to be doing more harm than good.
“I felt that it was just making matters worse. Everybody was angry…everybody felt that I wasn’t being remorseful.”
He confirmed he looked tired in the video, and had been feeling lots of “ups and downs.”
He said only “about six people” have called or messaged him while he goes through this difficult experience.
“What I’m really upset about is that none of my brothers from the community … try to support me.”