Saskatchewan

Sask. woman who testified against alleged sexual assaulter says justice system doesn't understand consent

Warning: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing.

Alleged assaulter was a doctor who had licence revoked by regulatory body

A Saskatchewan woman whose testimony led to a doctor having his licence revoked, but not to criminal charges, says police and prosectors need to be educated on consent. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Warning: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing.

A Saskatchewan woman says her story of sexual assault shows there is a "fundamental misunderstanding of consent" within the justice system.

She reported a sexual assault to police on Jan. 26, 2018, two days after going to the hospital. She remembers feeling devastated when she learned the Crown would not pursue charges against Jesse Leontowicz.

"I felt like the Crown prosecutor made his decision based on the fact that he didn't think he would win," she said. "But it's not your job to win, it's your job to present the case."

The woman, who CBC has agreed to keep confidential, said the fact that the beginning of the sexual experience was consensual seemed to create confusion. 

"I think it was hard for the cops and lawyers to wrap their minds around the fact that I can change my mind," she said. "That I can set conditions and if those conditions are breached then that's not consensual anymore."

She took action with the College of Physicians and Surgeons because Leontowicz was a medical student at the time of the alleged assault. He graduated last year. She testified to the college, which detailed her allegations in its report. 

She told them that Leontowicz removed the condom at one point during sex and forced her to continue. The report says she didn't consent to anything that followed and that Leontowicz held her down, spat on her and bruised her by hitting her repeatedly. After, he allegedly said, "I hope I didn't scare you...I've scared girls before."

On Friday, she said she felt both validated and exposed when she learned Leontowicz's medical licence had been revoked after she testified — and that the disciplinary decision was made public. 

The college found Leontowicz guilty of unprofessional conduct because of the alleged sexual assault. He received an indefinite suspension and an in-person reprimand. These are not criminal charges, as the case never went through the court system. 

The woman said prosecutors and police officers need to be educated on consent. She said the man who took her first statement appeared overwhelmed and didn't seem to understand consent, nor the difficulty of giving a statement so soon after an assault. 

She wants to see more education for police or, alternatively, a system where professionals who understand the intricacies of sexual assault take statements from victims. 

"When you're in a vulnerable position, you shouldn't be given the responsibility of explaining consent." 

While she's relieved the matter with the college is behind her, she said she is being careful not to put too much weight on this decision as she works on her mental health. 

"The fact is this rape happened to me and it doesn't go away," she said. Still, she finds some comfort knowing her story could help someone else. 

"Hopefully this, if it doesn't scare him into never doing this again, then at least people can make an informed decision before putting their trust in him." 

Leontowicz denied the allegations to the college and declined to comment to CBC. The college said his actions didn't occur on the job, but were damaging nonetheless. 

The college ruled "a core value of the medical profession is to do no harm. Further, the essence of the work of the profession is to help and heal other human beings. Sexual assault is the antithesis of this creed and unacceptable to the profession." 

The woman said being able to go to the college helped her and that if he had a different profession there might not be any avenue toward accountability since the case was not prosecuted.

She hopes that by taking ownership of her story and speaking out, she encourages others who have experienced something similar to try and speak out if it feels right. 

"Being a victim of sexual assault is a mental hurricane that you just cannot prepare for," she said. I want to use this experience for something good and be a voice for the people who don't have the opportunity to speak up."

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