Woman whose complaint of sexual assault was mishandled by police says accountability still missing

·3 min read
Kelowna RCMP has apologized to a sexual assault survivor whose report to police was mishandled. She said she was hoping for more when she pursued a complaint against the officer responsible for her file. (CBC - image credit)
Kelowna RCMP has apologized to a sexual assault survivor whose report to police was mishandled. She said she was hoping for more when she pursued a complaint against the officer responsible for her file. (CBC - image credit)

Warning: This story may be triggering for those who have experienced sexual violence or know someone affected by it.

A woman whose complaint of sexual assault was not adequately investigated by Kelowna RCMP says she has an apology but not accountability.

The detachment's officer in charge, Supt. Kara Triance, wrote an apology to the woman as part of an official complaint review process. CBC News is keeping the woman's identity confidential to protect her identity.

In an interview with CBC, the woman said she's glad for the apology, but is still upset that the officer who mishandled her complaint will not face further scrutiny or discipline because she left the RCMP.

"I was disappointed, I guess, because I had thought there was going to be more accountability," the woman said.

"I'm kind of upset that it was just kind of a blanket apology ... not from the officer from the incident but a higher-up."

"It kind of left me feeling like it was a whole lot to put myself through for not a lot of anything."

Details of the woman's situation — one of a number of cases that have raised questions about the detachment's handling of reports of sexual crimes — came forward after the apology letter was shared with media by the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter (VRRWS) on behalf of the survivor.

Second look leads to charge recommendation

The 20-year-old tried to bring forward a complaint in May 2020 but according to VRRWS, police told her that "investigating the complaint was not worth the RCMP's time."

Vancouver Rape Relief said the survivor begged the officer in question — who has been identified as a woman in private correspondence with the survivor — to look into it, hoping an investigation would lead to charges.

Triance stated in her letter that the officer ignored the survivor's requests and falsely recorded in the file that the survivor wasn't interested in police pursuing charges.

In March 2021, the woman filed a complaint with the RCMP's Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC). Police then reopened her file, launched an investigation, and recommended a sexual assault charge against the alleged attacker.

In her letter, Triance said she supported all allegations made by the survivor against the RCMP, including neglect of duty and improper attitude.

'We have a lot of work to do'

Triance, speaking to CBC, said since taking over the Kelowna detachment in Oct. 2020, she has made it a goal to have all client-facing officers trained in trauma-informed policing — an approach that seeks to understand the impacts trauma has on victims.

She said the aim is to complete this training for all public-facing officers by 2023.

"I believe we have a lot of work to do not only here in Kelowna but globally," Triance said. "We continue to work at this."

Last year, it was announced that 12 sexual assault cases in Kelowna were being reinvestigated by RCMP after they were originally deemed "unfounded."

A national RCMP Sexual Assault Review Team was tasked with looking over files from the Kelowna detachment after an unusually high rate of cases were being put aside as unfounded.

The survivor said she's not convinced more training is enough.

"Showing that you'll hold people accountable when they don't live up to the standard is important," she said.

If you are the victim of sexual violence, reach out to your provincial hotline.

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