The lawyer for a British Columbia woman recently shown being interviewed by a West Kelowna RCMP officer after she reported a sexual assault says he believes her interview was really an interrogation.
Penticton, B.C., lawyer Michael Patterson represents several claimants in lawsuits against the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) and against individual social workers Robert Riley Saunders and supervisor Siobhan Stynes.
He said he understands that police need to investigate complaints vigorously but this interview was “absolutely shocking.”
Patterson said the line of questioning by the officer adds weight to his client’s claim that social workers punished her for reporting the assault as stated in her amended statement of claim from March 2019.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
“The amended statement of claim mentions that she was disbelieved from the beginning by MCFD,” Patterson said. “If you think my client is lying about being sexually assaulted there are other ways to verify it at the time.”
“It was more of a very aggressive interrogation tactic in my view that you reserve for the more serious criminals and not a vulnerable teenager complaining about being sexually assaulted,” he added.
“I believe there was a rush to judgment.”
In the video, the officer asks the woman about her past sexual history and why she went to the alleged assailant’s house.
“Were you at all turned on during this at all? Even a little bit?” the officer asked. “You understand that when a guy tries to have sex with a female and the female is completely unwilling it is very difficult.”
The Indigenous teen was just 17 when the video was taken.
Read the full story here: ‘Were you turned on by this at all?’: RCMP officer asks Indigenous youth during sexual assault report
She reported she had been sexual assaulted by an acquaintance to Kelowna RCMP in March 2012.
She was in the care of MCFD at the time. The video shows she is alone with the male officer the majority of the time.
Patterson points out that MCFD was the youth’s guardian at the time of the interview and someone from the ministry should have been with her.
“Where were they?” Patterson asked. “If they were present, a parent was present, some support may have been present. Maybe that person could say, ‘Let’s stop this interview, let’s take a brief break’ or voice their concerns.”
The woman, whom APTN News is not identifying, says she felt very alone in the room.
“At one point I just broke down,” the woman said in a recent interview. “I knew he didn’t believe me.”
Patterson declined to say how the video evidence will influence the civil case going forward.
“What I can say is that we don’t believe that a proper investigation was conducted either by the RCMP or in MCFD. I pray that my daughters never have to report anything of this nature to the police. If this is how they treat complainants I find it absolutely shocking.
“I am really disgusted by this. I think she is owed an apology,” the lawyer added.
APTN asked the RCMP and MCFD for comment.
MCFD wrote an email indicating they are working on a response but nothing had been received by the time this story was published.
The RCMP has not responded at all.