Teen allegedly sexually assaulted at K-Days due to her own 'negligence,' Northlands says

A 13-year-old girl who reported being sexually assaulted at K-Days "ought to have known" she was putting herself at risk when she drank with a man she met that night, the company that produced the midway says in a statement of defence.

In statement of defence, Northlands and midway company say 13-year-old failed to ensure her own safety

Jessica says she was sexually assaulted and left unconscious in a ditch at K-Days in July 2008. (CBC)

A 13-year-old girl who reported being sexually assaulted and left in a ditch at K-Days "ought to have known" she was putting herself at risk when she drank with a stranger she met that night, the company that produced the midway says in a statement of defence.

The statement from North American Midway Entertainment-Canada Co. came in response to a lawsuit from the victim, an Indigenous woman who CBC is referring to as Jessica to protect her identity.

According to a statement of claim filed in January, Jessica went with a friend to the summer carnival, known at the time as Capital Ex, on July 19, 2008. The girls met a midway employee who introduced himself as Phoenix. He bought a 750-ml bottle of vodka and the three drank it that night in a semi-truck. 

Jessica started feeling sick and went to lie down in the back of the truck, where she said the attack happened. 

She was found just before 3 a.m. in a ditch on the property. She was unconscious, she said, her skirt pulled up to her stomach, and was not wearing underwear. Her friend was leaning against a tree nearby.

"I woke up in the hospital with tubes in my throat, and they were pumping my stomach," Jessica told CBC News in June.

Jessica was diagnosed with alcohol poisoning and doctors found evidence she had been sexually assaulted, according to the statement of claim. A rape kit was done and Jessica was interviewed by an Edmonton Police Service detective at the Zebra Child Protection Centre. 

Charges were never laid. Jessica said she was told there wasn't enough evidence.

Northlands denies allegations

Jessica is now 23 years old. In January, she filed a $100,000 lawsuit in Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta against Northlands, North American Midway Entertainment-Canada Co. — the company that produced the midway — and her alleged attacker, who is named in the statements of defence. The man has since died.

The past 10 years have been difficult for her, with flashbacks, anxiety, depression and PTSD, the statement of claim said.

After the assault, Jessica said, she ran away and became involved in child sex work, drugs and gangs.

In its statement of defence, filed in August, North American Midway Entertainment-Canada Co. denied the sexual assault occurred but said if it did, any injuries and losses or damages were caused by Jessica's "own negligence."

That includes "failing to take care of her own safety," "voluntarily consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or drugs," "accompanying one or more individuals when she knew or ought to have known that she was putting herself and her safety in jeopardy," and "failing to seek the assistance" of security. 

It affects me to this day.- Jessica

The midway company said if the incident occurred, then the injuries, losses and damages Jessica suffered are a result of "conditions pre-existing the incident in question."

The statement of defence said the damages claimed by Jessica are "excessive" and unreasonable and asks the court to dismiss the claim.

In its statement of defence, filed in July, Northlands also denied "each and every" allegation. It said any losses, injuries or damages sustained by Jessica were caused by her own "negligence."

Northlands also claimed the teen failed to "take reasonable care" for her own safety, drank "excessive" alcohol while underage and agreed to party while intoxicated with a man who was not known to her.

It also claimed her cognitive, psychological and physical condition before the alleged sexual assault would have impaired her capacity to earn income had the incident not occurred. It said she failed to "diligently" follow treatment advice from health-care professionals and failed to make "reasonable efforts" to return to her "pre-incident activities."

In June, Jessica told CBC News the trauma stemming from the assault has continued to haunt her adult life. 

"It affects me to this day," she said. "For the longest time, I tried to pretend nothing happened, just to be able to deal with it.

"If I can at least try to do something about it, anything, just so I can say I tried, then maybe it will help me forget about it."

CBC reached out to Northlands, which said it does not comment on issues currently before the courts. The North American Midway Entertainment-Canada Co. did not respond to a request for comment. 

None of the allegations has been proven in court. 

Sexual assault is never the victim's fault, says Mary Jane James, executive director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton. (CBC/Peter Evans)

'It smacks of victim blaming'

The language in the statements of defence is troubling but is not uncommon, said Mary Jane James, executive director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton. 

"It smacks of victim blaming, which is so wrong. That is what contributes to the rape culture that we live in today. That is why people don't come forward. They think they're going to be blamed for it."

That is why people don't come forward. They think they're going to be blamed for it.- Mary Jane James, SACE

Regardless of whether Jessica was drinking, 13-year-olds cannot consent to sexual activity with an adult. Having sex with someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol is also not consensual, James said.

Sexual assault is never the victim's fault, she said, no matter what the circumstances. 

"I think she's demonstrating tremendous courage to come forward and do this. I don't imagine any amount of money could make what happened to her go away, or make it any better," she said.

"What's happened to her cannot be undone, but maybe that will prevent somebody from doing that same thing to someone else."