A St. John's women's advocate is demanding action after a graphic video showing a troubling incident on George Street began circulating on social media this week.
The cell phone video shows a sex act involving two individuals, including a woman who appears intoxicated.
The video, which has since been deleted, prompted an outcry from some activists including Jenny Wright, the former executive director of the St. John's Status of Women Council.
Wright says, for her, it reiterates the dangers for women in that section of downtown St. John's. She noted George Street is promoted as a tourist attraction.
"They continue to advertise it, you know, as a global destination of tourism and inviting all these people to come, believing that it's going to be a place of good music and fun and safety when, in fact, it's not," she said.
The video was posted just weeks after the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary issued a warning that drugs had been slipped into drinks at bars on George Street. The RNC said it hadn't received reports of sexual assaults related to those incidents, including the video.
Wright noted that sexual assaults, including assaults facilitated by drugs, are chronically underreported.
"There's such a sense of stigma and victim blaming around it because alcohol is involved that women just don't come forward, and they are suffering in silence," she said.
Incident under investigation: RNC
According to RNC Cst. James Cadigan, the force's Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Unit is investigating the video. He said the video is being investigated as an indecent act, but can't say if what was seen on the video was an assault.
"It's difficult to speculate as to what final conclusions and investigation of this nature would come to," he said.
However, Cadigan noted that under the Criminal Code, it's illegal to share intimate images of an individual without their consent.
He said the RNC is asking anyone who witnessed the incident to contact law enforcement.
"Anytime there's an observed criminal act in progress or perceived criminal act in progress, we would ask that it's reported to the RNC immediately so we can respond and take appropriate action," he said.
CBC News has asked the George Street Association and the City of St. John's for comment. The association is expected to have something to say later in the week.
Prevention and accountability
Wright called for an action plan from the George Street Association to prevent violence and sexual assaults in the area.
"I would like to see a very clear safety plan from George Street about accountability, about what's happening on the streets and the steps that they're going to do to work to make sure that women are not regularly being sexually assaulted," she said.
Wright said mandatory training for bar staff would be a first step.
'We could decrease this and the community would start to have some faith again that there was some accountability for their safety," she said. "At this point, I know many, many women that will not set foot on that street."
In a written statement, the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre (NLSACPC) echoed Wright's call for safe bar training.
"Care for each other, other patrons and encourage bar staff to care for patrons. Self and collective care is an effective intervention."
The NLSACPC also criticized messaging which places the onus on victims of sexual assault.
"Messaging should be directed at perpetrators; it is illegal to drug someone and to sexually assault them," said the statement.