Former B.C. Summer Games athlete comes forward with sexual assault allegation

Former B.C. Summer Games athlete comes forward with sexual assault allegation

A former B.C. Games athlete who says she was sexually assaulted by another athlete during a dance at the 2006 summer games in Kamloops is angry that more young athletes were groped at the games this summer.

The woman came forward to CBC News after hearing of the nearly 30 complaints of inappropriate touching at a dance in July during the 2018 B.C. Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley. 

"I think BC Games certainly has something to answer for in the sense of how on earth this has happened again. It shouldn't have happened the first time and once they were made aware, it absolutely should not have happened again this year," she said.

"They have a duty of care to ensure athlete safety when athletes are competing. As did my coaches," said the woman, now 27, who has asked not to be identified.

The woman, who competed in synchronized swimming at the games as a teen, said she was assaulted at a dance in 2006. She reported it to her coach, but it wasn't disclosed to police or games organizers at the time.

Following the encouragement of a friend, she came forward in 2016 to alert the B.C. Games and the RCMP to the sexual assault.

"I was told that they have lots of measures in place to prevent things from happening again. So I was a little bit surprised when I read the article that you wrote where the CEO mentioned that ... he's never seen behaviour like this at [the] B.C. Games."

Athlete safety at the B.C. Games

B.C. Games president and CEO Kelly Mann says when the society first heard of the incident in Dec. 2016, it responded by speaking to the woman's provincial sport organization — Synchro BC — and reminded them of the importance of this type of issue and to follow their established protocols. 

Mann says the coaches the former swimmer spoke to had an obligation to ensure her safety and take the complaint to Synchro B.C. and the B.C. Games back in 2006.

He says the B.C. Games have made a number of revisions over the years to further athlete safety, including adding more volunteers to dances, making the room better lit, and holding games and other events outside the dance. 

The former swimmer says her coaches had gone out for dinner during the dance instead of chaperoning the athletes. 

"There are no parents at B.C. Games events as athletes are chaperoned by coaches, and those coaches need to be able to ensure athlete safety," she said. 

Currently, Mann says coaches are required to be with athletes at all functions. 

​Synchro BC apologizes

Synchro B.C. president RaeAnne Rose says since no official complaint was ever brought forward concerning the sexual assault, information on the case is limited, but they would still like to apologize to the former swimmer.

"On behalf of the synchro community we're truly sorry that harm has come to one of our athletes," said Rose. 

"Although it was 12 years ago we will support this athlete in ways that are helpful to her ...  We're very proud of her for wanting to change things for other athletes."

The current policy of Synchro BC is for coaches to report a sexual assault to the athlete's parents, Synchro BC, police and the B.C. Games. 

"When my kids got involved in sport I saw how exceptional ... this environment was for kids to grow up in, and to have that taken away when it's not safe is just heartbreaking to me," said Rose.

Rose says she spoke to one of the coaches involved, and they said the reason they did not report the sexual assault to police or games officials was because they notified her parents.

"The coach recalls speaking with the athlete's mother, the family decided not to pursue any further action, and the coach respected that decision," Rose said. 

The former swimmer says her parents were confused and didn't know what to do. 

"Unfortunately there's no parenting manual exactly on how to handle those things."

She says she swam for a few more seasons after the sexual assault, but couldn't bear to compete much longer than that.

"The event largely ruined synchro for me as the effects of trauma became permanently interwoven with my swimming experience," she said.