Community leaders lambast 'culture of misogyny' within RNC following latest sex assault allegation

·4 min read
Sentiments like these, from protesters outside Supreme Court in St. John's last year, continue to percolate across Newfoundland and Labrador as another woman alleges a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary sexually assaulted her without repercussion. (Malone Mullin/CBC - image credit)
Sentiments like these, from protesters outside Supreme Court in St. John's last year, continue to percolate across Newfoundland and Labrador as another woman alleges a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary sexually assaulted her without repercussion. (Malone Mullin/CBC - image credit)
Malone Mullin/CBC
Malone Mullin/CBC

Community leaders from St. John's to Labrador City are once again criticizing the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, after yet another woman accused one of its officers of sexual assault.

The police force has confronted an onslaught of sexual misconduct complaints in recent weeks.

Revelations from a St. John's-based sex abuse litigator, Lynn Moore, rocked the province in July, when Moore reported that more than a dozen women had contacted her with sex crime allegations involving eight RNC officers. An RNC superintendent said one of the officers is still with the force.

Moore said some of the women had been sexually assaulted or had been asked for sex while being driven home by an RNC officer. She told CBC News last month many of the women have not reported their alleged assaults to police.

This week, Roxanne Greene, a Labrador City woman, also raised the alarm over what she frames as negligence from the force, saying they refused to protect her from her ex-husband, an RNC sergeant, whom she accuses of harassment and rape.

One women's rights leader says the accusations, taken together, point to an inherent flaw of the constabulary.

"This isn't about one bad man, or a couple of bad men. This is about a culture of misogyny within that institution," said Laura Winters, director of the St. John's Status of Women Council.

"Over our years of work we've heard many reports from women who have experienced sexual assault at the hands of somebody in power, and [from] police officers."

Malone Mullin/CBC
Malone Mullin/CBC

Police reporting under scrutiny

Moore told CBC News last month that most of the women who contacted her did not feel comfortable reporting sexual assault to police, especially when accusing a police officer of committing a crime.

In Greene's case, she says she was discouraged from "messing with a man's career" by a superior RNC officer in one instance, and in another, an RNC inspector drove her to tears with his interrogation techniques, then failed to follow up with her to continue the investigation.

Michelene Gray, director of the Labrador West Status of Women Council, told CBC her organization regularly hears from sexual assault survivors who are re-traumatized by the typical police reporting process.

Darryl Dinn/CBC
Darryl Dinn/CBC

"The big problem is that it's not coming from a trauma-informed place," she said. An officer questioning a sex crime complainant should, she said, refrain from typical interrogation techniques and create a non-judgmental space for the survivor to speak.

In her experience, that's largely not what happens.

"To be stifled again when you report it to police is discouraging," Gray said. "Many are still silent because they're afraid, because they fear they won't be believed because of the stigma attached to sexual violence."

Civilian oversight

Greene told CBC she attempted multiple times to report harassment, stalking and threats made by her ex-husband, RNC Sgt. Nick Rumbolt.

For years, those complaints happened within the confines of the RNC reporting system. Greene says she felt she had nowhere to turn to ensure her safety.

Following her story, another St. John's-based organization is joining the fray of community groups calling for increased transparency within the RNC.

Earlier this year, Indigenous-rights group First Voice led the charge of a civilian oversight group staffed by community volunteers to keep watch over the constabulary.

Malone Mullin/CBC
Malone Mullin/CBC

The Transition House Association, which supports domestic violence victims in Newfoundland and Labrador, is the latest group to push for such a mechanism in light of Greene's story.

"It's pretty clear that at least at some times, the RNC … has shown an inability or a lack of willingness to investigate complaints against its own members," said Dan Meades, the association's provincial co-ordinator.

"That's not uncommon in large institutions, but in this case the stakes are so high that we obviously need to change some things, so that the public can regain confidence in this police force."

Meades says civilian oversight could counteract the opacity of the force's current police complaints system.

"When there's a complaint about the RNC made to the RNC, the only people who know about it are the complainant and the RNC officer who received the complaint. There's no transparency for the public," he said.

"There's a great modern history of civilian oversight of police forces in other parts of the world, and in fact in other parts of the country, and it's obvious that it's time that happens here in Newfoundland and Labrador as well."

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