Holly Moore, Laurie Hamelin
The woman at the centre of a social media and political firestorm over how she was treated in a disturbing video of her RCMP interrogation is speaking out exclusively to APTN News.
We are calling her “J” to protect her privacy. She was previously in British Columbia’s foster care system and is currently receiving treatment for complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
“J” said the province is paying thousands of dollars for her ongoing therapy.
“It costs the province a lot of money to hire the psychologist needed to help undo the damage that’s done,” she said. “It didn’t just cost the province that, it cost me my whole life.”
The video has been shared thousands of times online and sparked responses from politicians, child advocates and other victims about how police treat reports of sexual assault.
Though she was not charged with an offence, according to her statement of claim against the Ministry of Children and Family Development and two individual social workers, “J” was ordered, through a restorative justice process, to write letters of apology to the constable, her social worker and her foster parents. She was accused of wasting time and resources on what they concluded was a false allegation.
When asked about it, she burst into tears.
“I absolutely was punished for reporting rape,” she said. “It devastated me. It ruined my trust in police completely.”
“J ” said she feels overwhelmed after watching the video of herself at 17 that was recently released during the civil lawsuit against the province.
“After the incident I doubted myself on everything, I doubted my credibility. To this day I doubt my ability to parent,” she said. “It is such a traumatic event in my life. I think this event traumatized me more than anything my parents have ever done.”
“It really did break me.”
Read the original statement of claim.
Watching the video now, “J” said she can’t believe the interview went the way it did.
“I had no idea that my rights were being violated. And now as a parent, knowing my rights and sitting on the other side watching, it is so hard to watch because the questions are just disgusting,” she said. “I wouldn’t allow my own child to go through that.”
“J” says she first reported the March 2012 incident to her foster father who took her to hospital. The alleged attack was by a friend of a friend that she met on a bus that night. He took her to his apartment.
She was interviewed by a constable from the Kelowna RCMP detachment at the hospital, where a sexual assault kit was initiated. The next day, she was brought back to the detachment where the videotaped second interview took place.
“I thought that we were going down to the police station and I thought it was to get justice for my rapist. I had no idea what would happen next,” she said. “I could tell that the police officer was accusing me.”
She said she knew within the first five minutes of the interview that the officer did not believe her.
“J” said that at no time was she cautioned, told she could have a lawyer present or was allowed to leave.
The two-and-a-half hour long video, obtained by her lawyer through disclosure related to the lawsuit, shows social workers entering and leaving the interview room. But mostly the social workers were not in the room.
“I felt like I had nobody there and that was hard because most kids have their parents,” she said. “Being in foster care, I had none of that at all and the social worker that came with me was not supportive.”
She said she felt defeated and afraid of the male police officer doing the interrogation.
“I was very afraid because he is a tall, very scary-looking man and I didn’t trust him,” she said. “I just held onto the hope he would let me out of there.”
She also wondered why there were no female officers present during the interview.
She would now like the officer and social workers involved to write her a letter of apology and sit down with people from First Nations in the Kelowna area.
“I would like for them to sit down and listen to our people and for them to know the impact of what happened to our people,” she said. “Because of my story, other people have come forward with their stories and it’s horrifying but we as Indigenous peoples are slowly taking it back and that makes me proud.”
As much as this has been an overwhelming experience, she said she’s feeling supported.
“I just want to let people to know I do see your positive words in the comments and I do hear your stories and every story breaks my heart,” she said, “It helps me today knowing that people actually believe me. That 17-year-old me craved that so bad and now I have that validation and it means a lot.”
First Nation leaders in the province are outraged by the video.
“We vigorously condemn and strongly denounce the actions of the RCMP officer and MCFD social workers for further victimizing this young woman in a time of crisis. Their actions are starkly indicative of the deeply embedded racist devaluation of Indigenous women and girls that exists broadly in Canadian society. We demand that the Liberal government and the RCMP take immediate action to address this particular incident and the shameful legacy of violence towards Indigenous women and girls,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, said in a media release.
“Indigenous women and girls demand justice. We have been the target of extreme violence for too long, and we will not be silenced anymore,” said Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the UBCIC. “This vulnerable young woman was victimized when she was assaulted, and instead of honouring her story and seeking justice, she was further victimized by the system that was supposed to help her.”
The alleged suspect in the alleged assault on “J” was never interviewed by police.
The RCMP and the ministry have declined repeated requests for interviews.
In an email sent Wednesday morning, Kelowna detachment media relations officer Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey declined APTN‘s latest interview request.
“Thank-you for the opportunity, however the RCMP is not entertaining interview requests at this time,” he wrote.