British Columbia

B.C. Prosecution Service to review case in alleged sex assault of 16-year-old at UBC frat house

The B.C. Prosecution Service says it's reviewing why Crown prosecutors chose not to lay charges against a man accused of sexually assaulted a teenage girl at a frat party on the University of British Columbia campus two years ago. 

Vancouver Rape Relief says many cases are kept out of court because prosecutors aren't convinced they can win

The mother of a teenage girl who was brutally assaulted at a party says she's glad to hear the B.C. Prosecution Service is reviewing whether to lay charges. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

The B.C. Prosecution Service says it's reviewing why Crown counsel chose not to lay charges against a man for allegedly sexually assaulting a teenage girl at a frat party on the University of British Columbia campus nearly two years ago. 

The victim's mother, whose name CBC has agreed to withhold in order to protect the identity of her daughter, says she's "cautiously optimistic" after hearing the news from victim services staff last Friday.

"I'm happy in some ways that my daughter's voice might get heard," she told CBC News. 

The mother says her daughter was 16 when she was "violently" sexually assaulted by someone she knew at the frat party. She later sought medical attention with the help of a friend and submitted forensic evidence.

In June 2019, the daughter decided to report the attack to police. Investigators interviewed the friends she was with that night and collected other statements. The mother says her daughter sustained a concussion, and still suffers from the physical and emotional repercussions of the attack.

"When you're young, and you're naive, and you're innocent, this is devastating. This is your crash course in brutality," she said.

'What message are they sending'

RCMP recommended charges, but Crown prosecutors decided not to approve them. The mother says the Crown prosecutor told her there had to be a 99.9 per cent chance of winning the case for them to proceed. But the mother says that's not fair to her daughter or other victims of sexual assault. 

"What message are they sending to men? What message are they sending to women? That you could be brutally assaulted and have nothing happen. It's disgusting," she said.

After media outlets reached out to the B.C. Prosecution Service for comment, and CTV News covered the story, the service said it would review the case. 

In a written statement, the B.C. Prosecution Service said it's "reviewing the charge assessment decision in this matter" but it wouldn't comment on the investigation. 

The service said Crown counsel assess whether a case has a "substantial likelihood of conviction" and if a prosecution is in the public interest. In exceptional cases, the service added, charges may be approved if there is a "reasonable prospect of conviction."

'A serious deterrent to men raping women'

Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter, which helped the daughter file the police report, says cases like these are not uncommon despite forensic evidence and witnesses to support the victim's testimony. 

Sophia Hladik, a front line worker with the organization, says keeping sexual assault cases out of court is a disservice to victims and to the justice system. 

"The idea is that if enough men are tried publicly that it's a serious deterrent to men raping women," Hladik said.

"Ultimately the state has a responsibility to protect women ... by holding men accountable for their violence against women." 

Sophia Hladik with Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter says too few sexual assault cases end up in court. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Hladik says decisions about whether to approve charges need to be more transparent and the decision shouldn't be solely up to a Crown prosecutor to decide the merits of the case. 

The mother of the victim agrees. She hopes that, by coming forward, she can help foster change.

"It's about changing the system," the mother said. "This is a bigger problem then just what happened to my daughter." 

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.

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