*The names in this story have been changed.It sounds familiar — the anger, the sorrow, the pain, and the confusion. How could doing the right thing leave you feeling so let down? So disappointed?
Anne’s story hits close to home. Another young victim forever changed. She tells me that she “feels like she’s lost a loved one.” She feels like she’s broken.She hates the person she has become.
It sounded innocent enough. A friend she’s had for years asked her to come over and hang out. They did everything together. The friend spent more time at Anne’s house then her own. They were destined to be friends for life.
Now neither one of them will ever be the same and the friendship they once shared has been shattered. As are the promises Anne’s mother made that high school would be the best years of her life.
At her friend’s house there were boys. One took Anne aside and offered her a shot of alcohol. She drank it; she felt peer pressured to do so. He later produced a bottle of rum and told her to drink. This was in the kitchen and she doesn’t remember how she ended up in the basement.
It was dark, someone was pulling down her pants, another was trying to get her to perform oral sex. Anne was disoriented and tried to sort out what was going on. She was crying and pleading with them to stop when she heard someone say “isn’t this rape?”
It wasn’t long before another boy appeared and tried to rape her. He kept saying he couldn’t get it in while they pulled on her top and used their fingers to penetrate her. The three of them kept at it for about an hour when Anne’s cell phone rang.
It was her mother. They stopped and someone said let her answer it. She did and quickly told her mom to come get her. Now! They let her go and she ran upstairs into someone’s arms and told him they had hurt her. She was crying and scared. He wasn’t called to testify.
The next day Anne confided in a friend what happened. Text messages were appearing on her phone, “Don’t say anything, don’t tell anyone what happened.” It was one of the boys from the night before. She called her mother to come in her room and sat crying on the floor as she tried to get the words out.
Together Anne and her mother went to the hospital and the police were called. At the ER she was swabbed and examined. They photographed the bruises between her legs. The police took her clothes and three days later she made a statement. Her mother taught her to always tell the truth and that’s what she did. You’ll never have to remember anything if you do she tells me.
Alcohol can affect that, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Rehtaeh remembered almost nothing about what happened to her, Anne remembers more. After a few months she wanted to add some details — the person asking if this was rape. She made a second statement.
Months went by and her frustration grew. She thought of suicide, fought often with her family, dropped out of school, and grew angry. She wasn’t yet 16 and in Nova Scotia that made counselling for sexual assault difficult to find. Her mother wonders what someone with a 13-year-old would do?
The police told them little but mentioned one of the boys was well known to them. They said he’d be dead by the time he’s 20 and that his whole family was a mess and to stay away from them. The investigation dragged on and at one point Anne’s mother wished she had told her daughter not to bother with the police. When they did talk to them they were blunt and emotionless. Anne feels like they just didn’t care.
The boys meanwhile continued on as if nothing had happened at all. Two weeks after the assault on Anne one of them created the Facebook group ‘House Party ch” (Cole Harbour). Bring your own drugs and booze. $5 at the door. He was acting like he always has and probably always will. The lives destroyed in his wake are not his concern. Party on.
Anne would be the second person to bring him to court for sexual assault. How many didn’t bother is anyone’s guess but she knows now why some girls won’t bother. Our justice system has left her feeling victimized all over again. It’s hard to tell which assault angers her the most.
According to the Globe and Mail, “Researchers in England have found that about 30 per cent of men convicted of sexual assault have had at least one previous allegation against them dropped as unfounded.” At least one. There’s no reason to think Canada would be different.
Anne did the right thing. She believes that. It was hard and it was frustrating but she stood by her decision right to the disappointing bitter end. It was almost a year to the day after she was attacked when she sat in the courtroom and watched as the case went forward. She thought for sure the Crown proved he was guilty. The judge read his long decision and to her it sounded like a victory. The judge believed her, he believed something had happened. Then the word hit her, “but…” But! But?
But she was intoxicated.
Studies show alcohol is the preferred weapon for sex offenders. It lowers a victims guard. They can’t think straight or defend themselves. Alcohol makes for easier prey. “But…” it also offers the best defence possible if the unlikely chance arises and those offenders are called to account in a courtroom.
Anne was intoxicated. The judges words still ring in her head. “She can’t be sure who did what given the state she was in…” She sat there and listened and thought “But he’s the one who made me drunk!” The judge continued on with an almost predictable “so I have to find, based on reasonable doubt, the accused is not guilty.”
She sat in stone silence for a moment and let the shock settle over her. She isn’t sure if the judge was out of the room when she jumped up and screamed “You’re a fucking rapist!” Her mother ran at the boy but the deputies were ready. They knew what was going to happen and told Anne’s family ahead of time to warn them.
His family stood up and started yelling at her, “You got the wrong guy!” They continued taunting and tormenting as Anne was carried by her family out the door. She could’t even walk. She was devastated.
He ran home and posted on his Facebook profile, “Charge free !! Let’s goo.” Party on. A couple days later he showed up in her school and sat in the cafeteria. He sat there all day. Innocent people always intimidate their accusers like that.
Anne reached out to me on Facebook. She wanted to say something. She wants people to know this happened to her. She wants to warn other girls if they even have a couple drinks they are vulnerable to predators and the predators know it. She believed then as she does now; standing up was the right thing to do even though the cost has been high. She’s lost faith in the justice system.
In Canada sexual assault occurs (Criminal Code Section 273.1) if “the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity.” It sounds straight forward enough, but if a victim can’t consent due to intoxication the courts will allow that intoxication as a defence for the accused.
There are men in our communities who prey on women and they now what they need to do to get away with it. They know if she’s had something to drink, even if she’s still sober enough to cry and answer a phone, they’ll most likely walk free. Repeatedly.
When I was researching this case I came across a disturbing message online. It alleges there is a house in Cole Harbour where boys will drug girls and/or get them drunk so they can be raped. The boy who assaulted Anne hosts the party. It’s five dollars to get in.