Is it any wonder why so few report sexual assault?

CBC news is reporting a Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, RCMP constable took a complaint from a woman who was choked, beaten, stripped, and pushed out of a house naked by her boyfriend, but did not interview any witnesses and tried to convince her not to lay charges.

Constable Allan Poapst “did nothing to assist her or bring her attacker to justice,” according to disciplinary hearing documents obtained by CBC News.

Poapst got a reprimand and was docked three days of pay, which an RCMP adjudication board states “adequately reflects society’s intolerance for the conduct.” Critics call the officer’s conduct outrageous, and say the RCMP’s response does not adequately reflect the seriousness of the situation.  The CRCVC tends to agree and suggests policing culture needs to change significantly in order to better recognize and respond appropriately to all sexual assault complaints.  How can we expect women (and others) who have been sexually assaulted to come forward when examples of poor response such as this are so common?

While the incident in Manitoba occurred in 2010, a written decision on the case didn’t come until 2013. Internal RCMP discipline cases are not routinely made public, but CBC News asked for and received some recent Manitoba-based decisions.

Poapst testified the woman did not want to provide a statement and that he “was not aware of the requirements in relation to domestic violence investigations.”

The RCMP adjudication board rejected that, saying Poapst would have known RCMP policy on domestic violence, which states, in part, “A charge will be laid when reasonable and probable grounds exist, irrespective of the willingness of the victim to give evidence.”

Another officer from the same detachment later laid charges relating to the incident.

The victim in question said she wanted her then boyfriend charged, but Poapst convinced her that pursuing a peace bond “was a better alternative to criminal proceedings.”

The report alleges Poapst tried to conclude the file by indicating in his police report that the woman “did not want to provide a statement to police, which was in fact, not the case.”

He also downplayed the seriousness of her injuries in subsequent statements, saying “he was not satisfied that she had, in fact, been assaulted.”  Poapst has already changed the way he handles these types of complaints, according to the report.

The CRCVC will write to the RCMP D Division Commanding Officer to express the need to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement to provide effective response to victims of sexual assault through programs like the IACP’s Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation, as sexual assault must not remain vastly under reported while perpetrators go undetected.

The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime offers support, research and education to survivors and stakeholders.

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