Rape victim’s ordeal with University of...
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Nov 20, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Rape victim’s ordeal with University of Saskatchewan

After weeks of ignoring her family’s report of a rape on its Saskatoon campus, the university eventually sent an apology letter to Jenny

OurWindsor.Ca

SASKATOON - On New Year’s Eve, 2011, Jenny was raped in an apartment at the student residences on the University of Saskatchewan campus.

The night had started with a celebration, a party at a downtown club frequented by college University of Saskatchewan students. Jenny remembers being given a shot of alcohol, but from then on just flashbacks from the hours that followed.

Of walking down a set of stairs at an after-party … of being driven around in the back seat of an SUV … of being raped three times and not being able to move.

A 51-page judgment in the criminal case that ensued summarizes her testimony at trial.

Of the first assault, Jenny told the court she remembers pain, waking up on her back in a dark room, with her legs up and her thighs pressed against her chest. She can recall saying “stop” and the man on top of her saying “shut up.”

Of the second time, she remembers waking up, again in pain. She could hear herself trying to make noises and, again, “shut up.”

The third, according to the judge’s summary of her testimony, was the following morning, New Year’s Day. Jenny woke up, confused, to a man roughly groping her breasts and raping her. He stopped when she opened her eyes.

A three-month Toronto Star investigation has found post-secondary institutions are failing women who come to them in distress. Jenny was one of them.

Out of 78 Canadian universities, just nine have special policies to address sexual assault. Experts say a formal policy provides a clear path so those coming forward don’t have to fumble through a bureaucracy, much like Jenny and her family did.

Jenny was 20 then, not yet a student at the university but working on upgrading her high school science and math credits so she could study to become a nurse or midwife.

One of her two alleged attackers was a student at the university. Her rape took place in the McEown Park residences, a block of four concrete highrise buildings a short walk from the main gates of the university.

When Jenny’s mother called the president’s office to report the attack she says she was told no action could be taken unless there was a criminal finding of guilt — information the family later discovered was incorrect. And campus security didn’t follow up with her mother’s request that security surveillance footage from the night be preserved. Nor was an alert sent to students about a potential predator in residence.

The university’s reaction “made me feel like they didn’t believe me,” says Jenny.

The university’s then president would eventually send her a letter of apology.

In it, Peter MacKinnon, who has since moved to Athabasca University, said he wanted to “sincerely apologize on behalf of the university … Clearly, we did not have the appropriate protocols in place to ensure that the University returned such important calls in a timely and responsive manner.”

The letter adds that Jenny’s case brought to light the need to “review and revise” an emergency notification protocol to make sure those on campus are aware of reported attacks.

The University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, a sprawling campus that’s home to more than 25,000 students, told the Star it has since improved its notification protocols. It is not one of the nine schools in Canada with a special policy to deal with sexual assault. The school does have a 24-page student code of conduct, which mentions sexual assault once alongside 33 other “breaches,” including bomb threats, blocking exit routes and violation of copyright policies.

A 2013 guide created by the Ontario Women’s Directorate says schools should develop formal sexual violence policies that spell out the rights of those who come forward and the responsibilities of the school, including procedures on sending out alerts, how investigations are conducted and what the school can do to support victims and to help hold perpetrators accountable.

Jenny, who asked the Star not publish her last name, knew one of the men she told court raped her, Farouk Sadiq. They had a mutual friend and had met once before.

Sadiq, now 30, who was studying at the University of Saskatchewan, was charged in March, 2012. He testified at his trial that he and Jenny had been flirting throughout the evening — that she had been “grinding” on him at the bar, was “all over” him at the after-party and told him she wanted to have sex with him.

It would be almost another year before Jenny, who told court she believes she was drugged that night, would find out there had been a second man. She learned that when the results of her rape kit, used to collect forensic evidence, came back. Investigators used the surveillance footage Jenny’s mother had been so worried about to identify the second accused and then collected his DNA, she says.

According to court documents, Timloh Nkem, now 25, was not enrolled at the university but was living in the same residence. He was a friend of Sadiq’s who met Jenny that night. At the joint trial, Nkem testified he went into Sadiq’s bedroom at 4 a.m. to get a camera while his friend was in the bathroom and that Jenny said “come to me, come to me” before initiating oral sex. They then had consensual sex, he told the court.

Justice Richard Danyliuk of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench, in a ruling released this Sept. 16, said the prosecutor in Jenny’s case proved she did not consent to having sex with either man but it was possible to conclude Sadiq, the man who knew Jenny, had the honest but mistaken belief she did provide consent. (Jenny doesn’t remember portions of the evening.) On that basis he acquitted Sadiq.

“I woke up in the morning to (Sadiq) having sex with me,” Jenny says, recalling her tube top pushed up around her chest and her skirt around her stomach.

She says she’ll never forget the time on the clock, 10:10 a.m.

“There was no consent.”

Sadiq’s lawyer, Mark Vanstone, did not respond to repeated requests by the Star for comment.

As for Nkem, the judge said the second accused’s version of events sounded “much less like reality than it does an adolescent fantasy” and “so incredible, so unbelievable and devoid of merit.” That Jenny said “come to me, come to me” like “some heroine of Victorian literature” sounded “entirely contrived.”

The judge convicted Nkem of sexual assault.

Jenny’s family, particularly her mother Kathy, has played a crucial role in her attempts to find justice. Kathy spent the holiday weekend after the assault comforting her daughter as she cried uncontrollably. Jenny’s sister encouraged her to wait hours at the hospital to get a rape kit done and give a statement to the police.

(Jenny says she was confused for hours about what had happened to her. By the time she went to the hospital in the evening the window for a toxicology test — to scan for drugs — had closed.)

The family scrambled to get HIV retroviral medicine from their doctor before the 72-hour deadline, when the pills loose their efficacy. The drugs made her nauseous for the next month.

On the first business day after that holiday weekend, Kathy said she called the president’s office asking about protocols and procedures in place and whether there was a way to warn students of a potential predator in residence. She said the school told her it could not do anything without a criminal finding of guilt.

Kathy also called campus security to report the assault on her daughter and ask that the surveillance footage from the building be secured. Campus security didn’t follow up with her request, she says. No alert was sent out to the school.

About a month later Jenny called her mother in tears from Calgary, where she’d gone to stay with family, worried the surveillance tape would be erased. Kathy says she again called security and this time she says she spoke to someone who didn’t appear to know an assault in residence had been reported. She says she called the school approximately six times over the next two days in a panic, trying to find out what happened to the tape and was eventually told it had been secured.

“No one was paying attention and it was completely unacceptable,” says Kathy.

Jenny’s life came to a halt after the assault. She stopped trying to upgrade her marks and left the city.

The family felt frustrated with the pace of the police investigation. Police recited what she felt was a rehearsed line: “This isn’t like CSI. It’s not over in an hour.”

“I felt I should just stop at that point,” she says, recalling how it seemed as though no one was taking her claims seriously.

When Kathy got nowhere with the university she reached out to a coalition of women who had, years earlier, petitioned the University of Saskatchewan to improve the way it handled sexual assaults.

“They haven’t learned anything” is what Tracy Marchant, a biology professor at the university and a member of the coalition against sexual assault, thought upon hearing Jenny’s story.

Marchant and others had campaigned for changes in 2003 after two women were sexually assaulted on campus.

The Star spoke to one of those two women. That 2003 attack took place at 4 p.m. in a historical building where she was offering campus tours.

“You better co-operate with me, b—ch,” she remembers her attacker saying as his hands clasped her neck.

The woman, who asked the Star not identify her, said in a letter that Jenny’s case made it clear that “despite their claims to the contrary, the university had made no progress in improving their response to sexual assault since my attack.”

And similarly the school did not send out a warning alert in her case. Her assailant was a student who, she was later told, had been the subject of past complaints for misogynistic and threatening remarks to women. And she says the school’s administration never reached out to her to offer an apology or support.

She transferred to another university. Her attacker later pleaded guilty to a charge of sexual assault.

Six weeks after Jenny’s assault, Marchant and fellow coalition member Liz Quinlan asked for a meeting in February, 2012, with a school administrator and the head of security so that Kathy could air her grievances. They requested that an alert be sent out to campus and the school update its online statistics, then showing zero reported sexual assaults for the year. Kathy asked for an apology for her daughter.

It wasn’t until this meeting that the family was presented with options. Kathy says she was informed that a formal complaint could be filed against Sadiq under the student code of conduct, though Jenny ultimately decided criminal charges were as much as she could handle.

The alert was sent out to the campus community via email on Feb. 17, 2012.

Two months later Jenny received the apology letter from MacKinnon, who had also been president at the time of the 2003 assaults.

The university did offer Jenny access to its counselling services and gym, for which she is appreciative. But she still asks: “Why didn’t they take this seriously in the first place?”

In a recent interview with the Star, vice-provost Patti McDougall said she is sorry about how the university handled Jenny’s case.

“We weren’t helpful, we were non-responsive. On top of everything else we made it worse,” she said. “It’s just impossible not to feel terrible about the situation that happened to this young woman and about what we did in handling it.”

McDougall said the school has improved its reporting protocols, though it does not have a special sexual assault policy that articulates them. The school has a sexual assault awareness week and recently made a video discussing consent. It has been viewed by 1,000 people.

“We are very keen to continue to do better in this area,” said McDougall.

Jenny’s case took two years to wind its way through the courts. She had to go to court 31 times before the pretrial began, taking a day off from her hostess job each time. She would sit in a courtroom with the men she says raped her for hours, only to find out the hearing was being adjourned because a document was missing. She went through several prosecutors.

At the trial she testified for two days, answering a string of questions about her drinking, her supposed flirting and the fact she had done a line of cocaine that New Year’s night.

“It was really hard for me to admit that I had done cocaine that night because I felt that I wouldn’t have been believed,” she says.

“My story never changed. It is so easy to tell the truth.”

Her rescue dog Kota became a staple outside the courthouse.

In his ruling Justice Danyliuk said: “I note, emphatically, that because I have accepted Mr. Sadiq’s account, it is not necessarily so that I have somehow rejected what the complainant had to say or am otherwise discrediting her or saying she lied. (Jenny) had no memory of these events, thus it is not a case of accepting what he said over what she said.”

Jenny says she has “lost all hope” in the justice system.

Last year she resumed upgrading her credits. And this fall she signed up for classes at the University of Saskatchewan. But being on campus, so close to where the attack had happened, left her feeling anxious. And after the verdict she was nervous about running into Sadiq and his friends.

She dropped out.

On Halloween, she went to court for Nkem’s sentencing hearing. He didn’t show up. A Canada-wide warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Says Jenny: “I feel I will be looking for him for the rest of my life.”

Toronto Star

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