Indigenous woman at centre of RCMP interrogation video goes public ahead of protest

RCMP
Aden Withers was interrogated for two hours by the Kelowna RCMP when she went in to report a sexual assault. Submitted photo.

Holly Moore
APTN News
The woman at the centre of a disturbing video, recorded while she was reporting a sexual assault in Kelowna in 2012, is coming out publicly in advance of a protest against the Kelowna, British Columbia RCMP this Saturday.

Aden (Elicia) Withers, 25, is identifying herself to support other victims of sexual assault in Canada and to bring attention to the Kelowna detachment’s record on investigating sexual assaults.

The protest is planned for in front of the Kelowna RCMP detachment on Saturday, Nov. 23.

As previously reported by the Kelowna Capitol News, RCMP in the city deemed almost 40 per cent of reported sexual assaults to be “unfounded” in 2018.

According to Statistics Canada, that’s 15 per cent more than the provincial average across B.C.

“That’s quite alarming to us especially in a community with a high Indigenous population,” Withers said. “This isn’t a statistic that we are just going to sweep under the rug.”

She said the unfounded cases show that there is a problem with how the Kelowna detachment handles sexual assault complaints like the one she reported in 2012.

Previously her identity was protected but now she wants the public to know who she is.

“I’ve always wanted to, but I think I was just afraid in the beginning because I didn’t believe in myself,” she said.

“I didn’t believe in my story and I didn’t think people would believe in me. But after seeing the outpouring of support coming from people online and the outrage, it’s really inspired me to come forward.”

She said in making her decision to come forward, she is focusing on people who are victims of sexual assault.

“I want them to know that they are not alone in this and that somebody out there believes them,” she said, adding the stress of the situation for herself and her child has been overwhelming.

Read More: 

‘Were you turned on by this at all?’: RCMP officer asks Indigenous youth during sexual assault report

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RCMP officer says his interrogation of sex assault victim was not improper 

Withers was just 17 when she was interrogated for more than two hours by RCMP Constable Kent Hall after reporting an alleged sexual assault in 2012.

The actions of the officer in the video were widely denounced by the public, politicians and experts across the country.

“Were you at all turned on during this at all? Even a little bit?” Hall said in part. “You understand that when a guy tries to have sex with a female and the female is completely unwilling it is very difficult.”

“I felt very alone in there,” Withers told APTN News. “There was no parental support for me there at all. I was terrified.”

Withers sued the RCMP and Hall personally in June this year.

She is seeking punitive damages for how her case was handled.

“Hall interrogates the Plaintiff in the most malicious, degrading and threatening manner,” the claim reads in part. “Hall subjected the Plaintiff to a brutal, degrading and dehumanizing interrogation for over two hours.”

In a subsequent court filing, Hall defended his actions saying the interrogation was not improper. That case is still before the courts.

RCMP announced they would conduct a fulsome review of Wither’s case as well as a review of sexual assault cases handled by the detachment but for Withers, that is just not good enough.

“The RCMP is conducting investigation on themselves,” she said. “We’re saying in our protest that the RCMP be investigated by an outside support, maybe a victim services, so that they can better understand the impact of their impact of this statistic.”

RCMP declined our request for an interview but sent an emailed statement.

“I can confirm that a review of these files is being conducted by the Sexual Assault Review Team in Ottawa,” wrote Cpl Meghan Foster,“ I can only say the review is on-going and the completion date for the review is unknown as the volume varies between cases.”

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@hollymooreaptn

Show Producer / Winnipeg

Holly Moore is an investigative journalist with 16 years of experience working on news and documentaries. Before joining APTN in 2016, she was an Associate Producer with CBC Manitoba’s I-team where she produced nation-wide projects for CBC’s Indigenous Unit. Her work has been nominated for a number of national awards, most recently by the Canadian Association of Journalists. An expert in deep research and never giving up, she strives through her work to hold powerful forces to account.

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