Aden Withers playing a hand-drum while protesting the high number of sexual assaults deemed “unfounded” by the Kelowna RCMP on Nov. 23, 2019. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)

Indigenous woman settles lawsuit against Kelowna RCMP after sex-assault interrogation

During questioning the RCMP asked if she was “turned on” while being raped

After a hard-fought legal battle with local law enforcement, Aden Withers has settled her civil suit against the Kelowna RCMP.

In 2012, when she was 17 years old, Withers reported a sexual assault to the police in Kelowna.

However, she was subject to brutal and victimizing questioning, at one point being asked if she was “turned on” while being raped.

She filed a civil lawsuit against the detachment and the interrogating officer, Cpl. Kenneth Hall, in June 2019.

READ MORE: Civil suit brought against Kelowna RCMP officer after ‘abhorrent’ interrogation

On Monday (Jan. 27), the two parties reached a settlement which Withers said she’s satisfied with.

“I’m feeling relieved and tired,” she said. “It’s over and done with, thank goodness.”

Though the details of the settlement are confidential, Withers said a “more fulsome” review will be undertaken at the detachment.

“I feel like payouts are always an excuse towards Aboriginal people to make it seem like what they did was right,” she said.

Withers said if she hadn’t brought her case forward and the issue of rape culture in Kelowna to the public’s attention, her case would not have been reviewed.

“I think the outcome would’ve been a lot different,” she said.

“Bringing this to the media definitely impacted the outcome of the settlement.”

While the experience was draining for Withers, she encouraged other rape survivors to share their stories.

“Lots of people have come to me,” she said.

“It feels good because that means people are paying attention to the rape culture in Kelowna.”

Over the last six months, Withers has been an advocate for survivors, by sharing her story through various mediums and public events.

The Kelowna RCMP confirmed all legal claims related to Withers’ interview experience have been settled.

“We regret this incident and remain committed to improving how our employees respond to victims and investigate allegations of sexual assault,” said Staff-Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, senior media relations officer with the RCMP’s E Division.

“This incident highlighted the importance for the RCMP to continue to review and update our sexual assault investigative training, practices and policies.”

As first reported in the Kelowna Capital News on Oct. 25, 2019, Statistics Canada data shows the Kelowna RCMP classified almost 40 per cent of sexual assault reports as unfounded in 2018.

That number is more than double the 15 per cent average across the province and dwarfs the under five per cent averages in Vancouver and Victoria.

The RCMP recently completed an internal review of the extremely high number of sexual assaults that were deemed unfounded by police in 2018 and 2019, However, the results of that review have not yet been made public by the local RCMP.

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