Northlands to improve safety, amend statement of defence that blamed alleged victim

A statement of defence filed by Northlands that blamed a teen's alleged sexual assault at K-Days on her own "negligence" was released by an insurance company before Northlands had reviewed it, the organization said in a video statement issued Thursday evening.

Survivor of alleged assault says she is 'overwhelmed' by the support and encouragement she has received

Lisa Holmes, Northlands' vice-president of corporate development (right), and Christy Morin (left), a member of the board of directors, in a video statement issued by the organization Thursday evening. They say the statement of defence does not reflect the Northlands' values. (Vimeo/Northlands)

A statement of defence from Northlands that blamed a teen's alleged sexual assault at K-Days on her own "negligence" was released by an insurance company before the organization had reviewed it, Northlands said in a video statement Thursday evening.

Now the non-profit volunteer organization that runs K-Days and other events says it will be implementing new security procedures at its events.

Northlands will also amend parts of the statement of defence that says a 13-year-old's alleged sexual assault was caused by her own "negligence," including drinking while underage, partying with a man who was not known to her, and failing to ensure her own safety.

The statement of defence was filed this summer after a woman CBC is calling Jessica sued Northlands, North American Midway Entertainment-Canada Co. and her alleged attacker for $100,000. Jessica was found unconscious in a ditch at the midway in 2008, and says she was sexually assaulted by a midway employee.

Charges were never laid because Edmonton police said there wasn't enough evidence. 

In the video statement, Lisa Holmes, vice-president of corporate development for Northlands, says the first time the organization saw the statement of defence was in a CBC story published Wednesday. She said the organization believes victims of sexual assault should never be blamed and should be treated with "respect and dignity."

"Certain portions of the statement of the defence that were released yesterday are in no way an indication of our stance on this issue and they do not align with Northlands organizational values that we engage in on a day-to-day basis. As a result of this, the official statement of defence in this case is being amended," Holmes said in the video statement.

Certain portions of the statement of the defence that were released yesterday are in no way an indication of our stance on this issue and they do not align with Northlands organizational values.- Lisa Holmes, Northlands

Christy Morin, who sits on the Northlands board of directors, said in the video new safety programs will be implemented starting as early as "our next major event." CBC has reached out to Northlands for more information on what those procedures are and when they will be put in place.

Morin said Northlands plans to "engage" with the Zebra Child Protection Centre and Little Warriors, a national organization that promotes education and awareness about child sexual abuse, to continue to improve safety at its events.

The alleged assault happened at K-Days on July 19, 2008. According to a statement of claim, Jessica and a friend met a man named Phoenix. He bought a 750-ml bottle of vodka and the three drank it in a semi-truck, where the attack allegedly happened. (CBC)

'I hope that some good will come from my experience'

Jessica has suffered flashbacks, anxiety, depression and PTSD over the past 10 years as a result of the alleged attack, according to her statement of claim.

She said she ran away from home and became involved in child sex work, drugs and gangs.

Because charges were never laid against her alleged attacker, Jessica said she filed a civil lawsuit to seek the restitution she needed to move on with her life.

In a written statement to CBC News, she thanked those who have read and believed her story.

This past week is a reminder that I am not alone in challenging the myths and mindsets that hold survivors responsible for sexual assaults rather than those who perpetrate and facilitate them.- Jessica

"I am overwhelmed by all those who have come forward to push back against the claims of Northlands and North American Midway that I bear responsibility for the sexual assault I experienced" as a 13-year-old girl over a decade ago, she said.

"The strength you have provided me through your support and encouragement is hard to put into words. The journey for survivors of sexual assault can be difficult and lonely. But, this past week is a reminder that I am not alone in challenging the myths and mindsets that hold survivors responsible for sexual assaults rather than those who perpetrate and facilitate them.

"I want to thank everyone who took the time to get involved in this discussion. I hope that some good will come from my experience, and that there will be stricter rules and better protection for everyone at events not just in our city but across the country."