Rylee Schuhmacher says a feeling of powerlessness flooded over her when a Saskatoon police officer said her sexual assault case would be “impossible to prove.”
Last week, the 19-year-old took to social media to speak out about her experience reporting an alleged sexual assault to the Saskatoon Police Service.
She said her dealings with an officer who is part of the Sex Crimes Unit left her feeling “disgusted” at how victims of sexual assault are treated for coming forward.
“It was actually quite absurd because it was the last place I was expecting to be victim-blamed in,” Schuhmacher told CBC News.
Schuhmacher said the female officer conducting the interview repeatedly asked her leading questions. She said it seemed like the officer was trying to get her to say that the sexual encounter was consensual.
“[The officer] was like, ‘There were no witnesses — there’s no way to prove that you consistently said no’… I didn’t get the impression that they were going to continue on with the case.”
Schuhmacher said since posting about her experience online, at least a dozen women have reached out to her saying they’ve experienced similar treatment by police when reporting a sexual assault.
“The police out of all people, as an assault victim, are supposed to be on your side and when they aren’t, that’s terrifying,” she said.
Heather Pocock, assistant director and public education coordinator at the Sexual Assault and Information Centre, said the centre will help advocate on the behalf of a person who feels they were treated unfairly.
“Our goal is to educate and to really talk with all sorts of people in the community about sensitive response and appropriate response,” said Pocock.
She said police need to ask all the necessary questions to be able to build a case to go forward to prosecution.
Pocock explained that this process sometimes can be interpreted by victims as disbelief because they are challenged on every aspect of their account. But she said these lines of questioning are required to collect solid evidence.
“It may come across as, you know, intimidating and personal… but they have to get the person’s story and they have to get every detail to determine whether or not it’s enough to go forward with,” she said.
Alyson Edwards with the Saskatoon Police Service said they’ve contacted Schuhmacher directly and explained to her that there are ways to make a formal complaint…