in response to a Whig article...
Since there is a publication ban on my name, I can only call myself Mrs. S, and anything I have to relate here is either public record or my personal feelings only.
I am writing in response to The Whig article titled, “British officer acquitted of sex assault”, by Steph Crosier dated Thursday February 8, 2018.
About the article
I feel the article has failed to highlight the difficulty of proving a sexual assault case “beyond a reasonable doubt” along with the turmoil that is inflicted on the victim and their families.
There was also little mention made on the responsibility of a senior officer to maintain a stance of care & concern for a subordinate officer and the military Code of Honour.
When I viewed the original article around 5:38 EST PM, I was heartened to see that for once the media seemed to reporting the real story on why the verdict Judge Tranmer delivered was what it was. Ms. Crosier articulated the Judge’s rejection of the defendant’s testimony succinctly, but unfortunately she used quotations which attributed words to him that he did not use exactly as she wrote.
In the three hours Judge Tranmer used to explain his rejection of the defendant’s
testimony, many other words were used to clearly illustrate aspects of the testimony that did not meet the “preponderance of possibilities”.
Without the whole picture, it is hard for your readers to imagine WHY if the defendant’s testimony was rejected, then how could he be acquitted? I have learned the hard way that proving something “beyond a reasonable doubt” is a very difficult task. I truly appreciate the efforts that the Crown Attorney, Greg Skerkowski made to attempt that daunting task. Now after reading the article several times, seeing some comments, and having friends give me their opinions, I am hoping you will let me share the whole picture for a couple of reasons. My reputation and integrity is important to me even in “anonymity”.
the whole picture
Since I was not given the opportunity to provide a Victim Impact statement, filling in some details will help provide me with some closure. I also hope that my journey may help others should they find themselves facing the same choices.
Telling my husband
As a survivor, I can say that being believed is the key ingredient to finding the bravery to go forward with a charge that you are aware may have little hope in being carried out. As soon as I told my husband I believed I had been raped, those were the first words he said to me, “I believe you”. When I agonized over the impact it would have on our family and my career if I made a police report, his next words were reassurance that he would support any decision I made. Since I was on military service in Ontario, I had to tell him this most distressing news over the phone as he was located in our home many provinces away.
At the Police station
When I arrived at the Kingston Police station and called from the parking lot asking to speak to a female officer about a sexual assault, one was found around 9 p.m. I was looking for advice and a medical exam to see if my memory recollections had any forensic evidence for support. The officer was polite, caring and there was no pressure to do anything but talk. We did for a couple hours and she said she believed me. Since the Detectives from the Sex Crimes unit were there working late, and knowing that I did not live in town, they kindly suggested I give a video interview in case we did decide to press charges. Detective Bough was also polite, caring and there was no pressure to do anything but talk. Another couple distressing hours passed as I recounted the memories I had been able to recall from the night after the mess dinner. He said he believed me.
This made it well after midnight to get to the Kingston General Hospital Sexual Assault Domestic Violence (SADV) nurse.
At the Hospital
The exam took about four hours. Questions, forms, blood samples, urine samples, invasive swabs and photos. All in hopes of finding evidence that would help us determine the next course of action. At that time I was not 100% positive who the person was that raped me, so I received painful injections against STDs and left with prescriptions for a 30-day course of HIV prevention medication that left me nauseous and unable to work on some days.
Over the next couple days, my husband and I discussed the impact a trial would have on our family and possibly my career, since I had recollected enough memory to believe the perpetrator was likely one of the VIP guests at dinner which meant he was high ranking. The memory of his accent in my dark hotel room gave me a clue to his identity as one of the officers that had tagged along with our usual Pilot House group. After our Regimental dinners we always went to the Pilot House as it was located next to my hotel where I always stayed at every year I came back to Kingston. Usually my daughter would be hair stylist & chauffeur in exchange for a hotel room stay with unlimited room service and movies. Unfortunately for this dinner, she was called in for a midnight shift and would not be able to return to the room until 6 a.m.
Finding out who raped me
Since I had never met the accused I did not know his name, various investigative challenges meant there was no arrest made until August. I spent some intense sessions with my therapist until the detective later told me details about the restraining order.
That is when I found out the accused was married, and it was pointed out to me that it was unlikely he would go against his bail conditions. This was small comfort.
Waiting for justice
There were the rounds of hearings as the pre-trial requirements were postponed for various reasons. Each court date heightening anxiety and delayed resolution. I do not recognize this new person that has been created; guarded, ghostly and working hard every day to regain the bold & confident leadership abilities that used to come so easily. This anxiety and rollercoaster of emotion was shared by my family.
Familiy in pain
My husband was upset that he was powerless to help me from so far away, and my daughter was understandably distraught that she had not been in the hotel room all night as planned. All three of us have sought and are still undergoing mental health therapy. My daughter lost her job, and her current new one is in jeopardy due her doctor recommended absences.
loosing my career
My Reserve Force military contract was not renewed, and although I was offered a managerial position with my civilian employer in April 2017, I could not bring myself to accept such a responsibility in the midst of the stress of waiting for trial to happen.
It was a long six day trial, and I was subjected to two days of cross-examination on details of an evening that occurred almost two years previous. Your article noted that our “versions of events were vastly different, and witnesses supported neither of them.” That is incorrect. There were elements that were supported. Most important to me, one witness testified that I had rebuffed the British officer that had joined our group at the Pilot House. The defence said that I only said that to this witness to cover up my intent to proposition the British officer. Unfortunately I did not see the British officer leave before me, and I forgot that even in my insulted state I still had the presence of mind to ask the bartender about my bar tab before leaving the bar. These points were cited as memory lapses which contributed to creating reasonable doubt in my memory recall. I also could not remember whether I “pushed” or “pulled” the door open before stepping
out and tripping. I tripped when I did not note that there was a 2-3 inch drop between the door sill and the first step outside the entrance way door. Between a heavy wool, floor length skirt and two inch patent heels, this lack of observation resulted in a fall onto the steps outside the Pilot House. However, the accused insisted that I fell when I slipped on an icy patch when I took him on a journey to my hotel. This fall was how he explained the massive bruise on my knee that my husband could still see on a trip home 10 days later. According to the accused, I fell only onto "just one knee" because my skirt was too tight and caught my leg when I slipped. According to the accused, I took him to the Marriott Residence Inn instead of the Sheraton. Using Google maps, according to him we walked a 1.1 km route, in my nylon stocking feet, on icy sidewalks in -7°C, without even complaining of being cold as I had removed my shoes after falling. Vastly
different, I recalled going directly to the Sheraton hotel I always stay at, mortified that I had tripped and fallen in downtown Kingston while dressed in my dress uniform.
You noted that alcohol was a “consistent aspect”. The dinner was a very formal occasion to commemorate the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It was not a drunken bash. It is always important for all officers to maintain decorum and behave properly in public, especially in uniform. One of the reasons I believe most witnesses reported that I did not appear to be heavily intoxicated. I have been trained to maintain composure in uniform and I feel that was the main reason I did not throw my drink in the accused face when he made it clear he wanted to hook-up. Alcohol is not an aphrodisiac. It merely releases your inhibition to not do something you want to do. I did not attend the dinner with any interest in a sexual encounter. I attended to enjoy an evening of good food and drinks in a genteel setting. I have been attending such dinners 2-3 times a year for the past 33 years. Never has the thought of danger occurred to me as I view my comrades as true brothers and sisters I can trust to help me out should I overindulge. My logical brain still rejects feeling anxious; my PTSD brain now has moments of anxiety. As I testified, I did not feel incapable of walking, but I would certainly not have driven anywhere. I had never met this British officer in my life, but I treated him as I would any guest at our Regimental dinners.
So I was not surprised when he testified that I was a very lively, charming and talkative person that was passionately proud of my military service. What did surprise me was his descriptions on how I apparently performed in bed despite the fact I had been awake for 20 hours, consumed alcohol over a 10 hour period, fell badly enough to significantly bruise my knee, had a full set of braces on my teeth, and have plates & screws in my leg along with being 50 lbs overweight. All total that realistically makes it impossible to engage in the some of the sexual positions he testified I initiated. His testimony was actually a relief to me, as up until then I had to wonder if I had been more intoxicated than I felt and did things I did not remember. I have no doubt now that I had allowed myself to fall asleep believing that I would be safely tucked in by a brother in arms.
The military factor
Unfortunately the Judge did not understand this blind “default” trust, and frankly, probably only another military member would truly understand what I am saying. Only a military person understands why knowing someone in uniform is helping you back to your room gives you a sense of relief. The Judge cited that as a failure on my part. He could not understand why I felt relieved when I realized the stranger in my hotel room was in uniform. Trust is trained into you; trust your military comrades. This is why Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is harder to overcome. Not only has your body been violated, your trust in your comrades has been shattered. When I testified, “red means safe”, I was referring to our Army dress uniform which has jackets of red doeskin. I have been to seven mess dinners since this one. At the first one in Nov 2016, I had a panic attack. Each one still causes high anxiety I work very hard at hiding. I don’t know if I will ever completely relax again as psychologically red no longer means safe to me.
Beyond reasonable doubt
So, beyond a reasonable doubt. That is the bar. Even though the Judge basically rejected the accused testimony by citing certain aspects of it as not meeting the “preponderance of possibility", burden of proof is high and the Crown did not prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that at some point I may have given consent. If I could have proved loss of consciousness/sleep, that would have been another way to prove consent is withdrawn. So the Judge had to dismiss the charges. These days I wear a FitBit with a heartrate monitor and I mentioned to my husband that it was too bad I was not wearing one that night as my Fitbit monitor could have proven I was asleep! I have since bought one for my daughter.
I will survive as I always have already being both a child abuse survivor and domestic violence survivor. (For the record, not with my current spouse). The Army has also drilled into me a resilience that continues to sustain me. What troubles me the most now is if I, a faithful & loyal servant of the Queen in both the federal public service for the past 30 years and a military member for almost 37 years, happily married for the past 20 years, and mother of two cannot convince a Judge of my credibility to tell the truth beyond a reasonable doubt, then I shudder to think of what hope a younger, less stable or less professional person has in obtaining a conviction should they find themselves a victim of sexual assault. Even one that has been corroborated with DNA evidence and a confession from the accused. I do feel that there was a dedicated effort by Judge Tranmer to ensure all facets of justice were served, and I sincerely thank him for that consideration. The legal framework he cited before delivering his verdict was well thought out and balanced. But until precedents change from more people having the bravery to challenge this method of dealing with sexual assaults, the legal system will not be able deliver justice where it is due. Innocent until proven guilty would be better balanced if it was innocent until proven a liar.
I do not regret coming forward despite the emotional and mental toll it has put on our family. Coming forward helped me eliminate any doubts on my memory recall. As arduous as the legal journey has been, it has also provided strengths where I thought I had none and given me a new life direction to consider. Life needs to be better for our children, and it only gets better when we start changing the things that make it a life too painful to live. Advocates, volunteers and the brave souls they help to overcome domestic and sexual violence need stronger voices helping. I see that now, and I hope others do too. In this case today as you read this, I hope The Whig does too. I implore you to always try and report the whole story. Kingston is a beautiful city and still stands as the one I choose to retire to when the time comes.
Thank you for listening.
I’ve had one of the worst weekends ever. My husband are not doing well as a couple. It was suggested to us we attend a very well known couple’s communication event designed for Veterans, EMS etc.
The couples were divided into either the veteran role or the spouse roll. Both my husband and are veterans both with an OSI. I chose to attend the spouse meeting and husband attend the other classes.
One of the facilitators is ex-Military. My first meeting with this man and the military wives was horrible. This man used the f*ck like it was a comma. He spoke to women like were in basic training. He is yelling that we deserve to be treated better by our partners and he’s talking to us like crap. He was very hypocritical!
He even told us his background was being a civilian mediator for the CF for CO’s and NCO’s in reference to “sexual harassment cases. The disturbing thing was when he talked about being a mediator he used air quotations and said he deals with the “sexual harassment fun stuff”. I really did not know how to take that statement except i was very triggered. This guy spoke in a aggressive over the top manner. I ended up calling him out on his behaviour.
I called him a f*ucking asshole He looked at me and told me was glad he was getting in my face and that he was doing his job. I responded back with I had seen his type numerous times when i was in the military and they are all assholes. I saw my harasser from when I was in the Military in this guy standing in front of me. I was horribly triggered by this guy. There is more to my story but this is the condensed version.
I am now left a complete and emotional wreak. I am angry, feeling betrayed because I thought it was going to be safe place.. again all the feelings are right at the surface from my incident in the army. I am too stressed out to eat or even sleep. I told my husband to leave me alone. I don’t want to talk to anyone.