Ottawa

Groups allege victim blaming in date-rape drug case acquittal

Victims rights groups are calling for an appeal of a recent decision by an Ottawa judge, claiming his ruling amounts to “thinly veiled rape myths.”

Judge’s decision says 'people need to exercise extreme care when out drinking in public’

The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime says Justice Trevor Brown made errors of judgment that amounted to victim blaming. (CBC News/Felix Desroches)

Victims rights groups are calling for an appeal of a recent court decision in a sexual assault case, saying an Ottawa judge's ruling erred on the issue of consent and relied on "thinly veiled rape myths".

Edward Ekiyor, an Ottawa basketball star formerly with the Carleton Ravens, was tried on charges of sexual assault and administering a stupefying drug to facilitate a sexual assault.

He was acquitted on all charges in a decision released on Oct. 1.

Ekiyor was charged following a night out "celebrating with his varsity basketball teammates" in downtown Ottawa, according to court documents.

The Crown argued that after meeting a woman, Ekiyor introduced a date-rape drug that was or was akin to GHB and then sexually assaulted her, while Ekiyor said it was a consensual sexual encounter. 

In his reasons, Justice Trevor Brown said his decision was "not in any way meant to blame or fault" the victim, who he believed unwittingly consumed a date-rape drug like GHB at the bar where she met Ekiyor.

"The evidence however, is far from compelling that Mr. Ekiyor administered that drug to her," he said, according to court records.

Extreme care needed when drinking, judge says

"It is a dangerous and utterly demoralizing reality that men use these drugs to target and victimize vulnerable young women," the justice said in his decision.

"People need to exercise extreme care when out drinking in public."

"This is a very unfortunate reality. Men and women need to look out for one another in such situations," Brown continued.

'I think this is just another example of why survivors have such little faith in the justice system,' said Aline Vlasceanu, executive director of Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. (FaceTime)

In a joint statement, the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime and the Ottawa Victim Services say the perpetrator is the sole person responsible for sexual assault and believe statements like this are dangerous and unfair.

"I think this is just another example of why survivors have such little faith in the justice system," said Aline Vlasceanu, executive director of the Canadian Resource Centre, in an interview Wednesday. 

Brown goes on to say the Crown was unable to meet the "exacting standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt" that the woman "did not consent to the sexual activity in question at the time she was engaged in sexual intercourse with Mr. Ekiyor." 

"A person under the influence of such a drug may be able to walk, talk, and otherwise make choices, but lose the ability to remember their acts because the memory fails to imprint in the brain," he said. 

The woman testified the encounter was not consensual, recalling gaps in her memory, noting she felt "paralyzed, like she had no voice and could not stop what was going on," the judge said.

Judge's wording 'unacceptable,' says victims advocate

But Brown said other witnesses testified she completed a number of acts of "inherent physical and mental complexity, that required conscious and coordinated thought" and which she could not remember. 

"This clouds the reliability of her recollection about how she was feeling inside the bar and about her recollection of losing her vision outside the bar." 

Vlasceanu said the judge's wording was "unacceptable" and perpetuates violence.

"You can't consent if you're intoxicated. Period, right? So why are we still kind of going around in circles about that."

Vlasceanu's organization, Ottawa Victim Services and the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women have started a letter writing campaign directed at Ottawa's head Crown attorney, the deputy Crown attorneys, and attorney general of Ontario demanding the case be appealed. 

An appeal needs to be made 30 days from the day of the decision, Vlasceanu said.  

"I don't think I've spoken to a single woman that hasn't been appalled, shocked, outraged, angered by the decision," she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joe Tunney reports for CBC News in Ottawa. He can be reached at joe.tunney@cbc.ca

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