Montreal woman says she was misled, discouraged by Info-Santé nurses after alleged sexual assault

Geneviève Raymond says she was drugged and sexually assaulted several months ago, then given misinformation for how to proceed in reporting the incident by a nurse at Quebec's free healthcare telephone consultation service.

Geneviève Raymond said she felt 'chastized' and 'lectured' by nurses she called

Genviève Raymond told CBC that she was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance several months ago and then given misinformation for how to proceed in reporting the incident by Info-Santé staff. (CBC)

Earlier this fall, Geneviève Raymond went for a drink at the home of her former colleague. She woke up the next morning in the same apartment, she says, naked, disoriented and with almost no memory of what had happened the night before.

The one thing she does remember is waking up briefly in the middle of the night.

"I felt I was pinned to the bed, I couldn't move," she recalled.

"I felt totally stuck to the bed. Even if I wanted to [move], I didn't have the strength."

In the morning, as she gathered up her clothing, she said the man started acting suspiciously, stripping the bed and cleaning the floor.

Raymond believes she was drugged and sexually assaulted at the man's home.

"I could not believe it. It didn't make sense. My head was rushing. I just could not comprehend what was going on," she said.

After getting out of the apartment, she called Info-Santé, Quebec's free healthcare consultation service, and spoke with a nurse who suggested she go to a hospital, because it sounded from her description like Raymond may have been slipped a date-rape drug. 

Raymond also called the police, who advised her to go to whichever hospital she could.

They tell us to call 811 when we need help and, basically, I did and I was misinformed and misguided and lectured.- Geneviève  Raymond

In her conversations with both the police officer and the nurse, Raymond asked which hospital she should go to, since some have centres specifically designated for sexual assault survivors.

But the nurse on the phone advised Raymond to go to any hospital in the city. 

In fact, rape kits are only available at designated sexual assault centres with specialized staff trained to handle such cases. If Raymond had gone to a different hospital, she may have been directed elsewhere.

The next day, Raymond called 811 again, insistent that she needed to go to a designated centre. 

Raymond said the nurse lectured her for only going to the hospital 48 hours after the fact.

The nurse also chastised Raymond for taking a shower after the alleged rape, she said.

'I was just appalled'

Finally, Raymond called the Montreal Sexual Assault Centre hotline and was told that she could get a consultation at a designated health centre at Notre-Dame Hospital.

There are four designated centres in Montreal, with the Ste-Justine and the Montreal Children's dealing with youth cases. Notre-Dame Hospital and the Montreal General handle adult cases.

Raymond told CBC that she went to Notre-Dame where a rape kit was administered.

She said that the social worker on site was "appalled" to hear what the Info-Santé nurse had allegedly told her about the timing, saying that in fact a rape kit can be collected up to five days after an incident.

"Women don't know this and it's so sad," said Raymond. "They tell us to call 811 when we need help, and basically, I did and I was misinformed and misguided and lectured."

The frustration didn't stop after Raymond filed a report with the Montreal police.

She was told it would be four to six months before she could meet with an investigator or get the results of her rape kit.

"I was just appalled," she said. "If someone has a fight outside, throws a punch, they will be handcuffed, put in the back of the car, and brought into the police station. I was raped and yet nothing is happening and I have to wait four to six months."

Raymond said she wanted to speak out about her experience in order to help other women who may go through the same thing.

"I really feel the system is not made for the regular person that needs the help," she said.

Deborah Trent is the director of the Montreal Sexual Assault Centre. (CBC)

Deborah Trent, director of the Montreal Sexual Assault Centre, said the importance of designated centres can't be overstated.

"The worst thing is to send someone somewhere where there is no skill or knowledge," she said. "It's essential that people be directed to the proper services."

She explained that staff are trained to collect rape kits that could eventually be used in legal proceedings, and they are sensitized about how to deal with assault victims.

Trent told CBC that the information given to Raymond was blatantly wrong. She said a rape kit is still useful after two days, evidence can still be collected after a shower and going to a designated centre is the correct protocol.

'Unacceptable' situation, ministry says

Trent said misinformation of this kind persists within the healthcare system. She has heard stories over the years of survivors who get discouraged by the lack of information out there and ended up not reporting their assaults.

"Within all of the networks and all of the resources, we need to make sure that these services are well-known [and] promoted properly," she said.

In a statement, Quebec's Health Ministry said Raymond's description of her experience with 811 was "unacceptable," adding that protocols are in place to prevent these kinds of things from happening.

The Ministry shared Info-Santé's sexual assault protocol with CBC News, which clearly states that nurses should establish that the caller is in a safe situation and then refer them to a designated centre.

The statement said that there are 80 such centres in Quebec.

Montreal police wouldn't comment on the specifics of Raymond's case.

If you need information, you can reach out to the Montreal Sexual Assault Centre

Provincial helpline for victims of sexual assault: 1-888-933-9007; Montreal: 514-933-9007

Based on a report by Matt D'Amours