British Columbia

Victim in alleged UBC sexual assault case cross-examined in Vancouver court

The lawyer for a University of B.C. student on trial for sexual assault suggested to the alleged victim Wednesday that she consented to intercourse, but accused his client after regretting her actions.

WARNING: This story contains details readers may find disturbing

A Vancouver provincial court judge is hearing evidence in the trial of a University of B.C. student accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student in his residence room. (Mike Laanela/CBC)

UPDATE: This story was updated on April 6, 2018 to reflect the acquittal of the accused. A provincial court judge acquitted Jass Sekhon of sexual assault after concluding the Crown had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. According to Crown spokesman Dan McLaughlin: "While this is not the result the Crown was advocating for, we respect the court's decision and the process by which it was reached."

The lawyer for a University of B.C. student on trial for sexual assault suggested to the alleged victim Wednesday that she consented to intercourse, but then accused his client of a crime after regretting her actions.

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Emmet Duncan pointed out that the young woman claimed she found the accused — Jass Sekhon — arrogant and not her type.

Yet, said Duncan, she went with the 23-year-old to his residence-room after making out at a fraternity party in September 2016 and admitted consenting to removing her jersey and performing oral sex on his bed.

"I'm going to suggest to you that you in fact consented to all the sexual activity in Mr. Sekhon's room — but that afterwards you almost immediately began regretting it," Duncan told the woman.

"You believed afterwards that Mr. Sekhon had manipulated you … I'll suggest that you were angry and disappointed because you had given in."

Support for both accused and accuser

The woman — who can't be identified under the terms of a publication ban — denied the suggestion.

The trial highlights the hot button issues of consent and the consequences of allegations of sexual assault on university campuses for both an alleged victim and an accused.

Sekhon has pleaded not guilty.

On the opening day of the trial, the woman testified that the two met at a back-to-school party and started kissing.

She claimed they returned to his residence room where they began a cycle of kissing, talking and her trying to stop him from trying to remove her shorts.

The woman said she started giving him oral sex, but froze, after which she claimed he pulled her underwear off and they had intercourse without her consent.

She claimed she gave him oral sex again because she didn't want him to ejaculate.

A number of Sekhon's supporters have sat in the courtroom each day as he listens to the woman, who is testifying behind a screen.

The trial highlights issues of consent and sexual assault which have become the topic of public discussion on university campuses. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Friends of the alleged victim have shown up in the public gallery as well.

In her cross-examination, the young woman admitted that close friendships she had with people who saw her leave the party with Sekhon and who called RCMP have since ended.

Duncan suggested the fractured friendships form part of the woman's motivation.

"You want this court to vindicate the truth of what you're saying?" he asked her. "You're hoping that the judge will believe you."

The woman denied the suggestion: "This is my time for closure."

Uncomfortable questions

The cross-examination began on Monday afternoon, continued through Tuesday morning and wrapped up after nearly two hours Wednesday.

At the outset, Duncan explained his role on behalf of his client in a need to elicit the facts that will ultimately help the judge make a decision.

"Some of these questions are going to be uncomfortable — I recognize that," he said. "None of them are meant to embarrass you."

An aerial view of the University of British Columbia campus where a young woman claims she was sexually assaulted in September 2016. (UBC)

Duncan led the alleged victim step by step through a series of inconsistencies between statements she gave police and the Crown and the testimony she gave in her examination in chief.

Those included the issue of whether she consented to Sekhon removing her shorts and when they came off.

"The consent for him to take off my shorts was not there, because I said no multiple times — but I still forgave him," she said.

Duncan also suggested she assisted him in removing her underwear. She said she didn't.

'Didn't know what to believe'

The defence lawyer suggested the alleged victim was in fact the one who verbally initiated the sex.

On cross-examination, she agreed they had a conversation about condoms.

Duncan said Sekhon withdrew because he was having difficulty maintaining an erection "and you were aware of that." The woman said she was aware but was not convinced he wouldn't ejaculate anyway.

On cross-examination, the alleged victim agreed she had several opportunities to leave and that Sekhon neither forced nor threatened her to stay.

In her initial testimony, the woman described the intercourse by saying "and that's when I got raped."

Duncan asked her about a text she sent a friend after leaving the residence saying: "I think I just got raped."

"I didn't know what to believe at the time. My head was in a disarray. And when something like that happens to you, it's hard to fathom something like that happening to you," the woman told him.

"What you really meant was: 'I think I just got manipulated,'" Duncan responded.

"You used the word 'think,' because what you really meant was: 'I think I just got played by this guy.'"

It's not certain whether Sekhon will testify after the Crown wraps up its case early next week.

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