Saskatchewan

'Trust was broken' during alleged sexual assault, final Ukabam complainant says

Court heard from a fifth complainant — a 66-year-old woman from Regina — who alleges that former Regina doctor Sylvester Ukabam sexually assaulted her in 2014 during a routine appointment. 

Sylvestre Ukabam, 76, is charged with 7 counts of sexual assault

Sylvester Ukabam, right, is shown at Court of Queen's Bench in Regina on Monday. (Mickey Djuric/The Canadian Press)

WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing

The sexual assault trial of former Regina doctor Sylvester Ukabam entered its fifth day on Friday, and court heard from a fifth and final complainant.

Ukabam, 76, was a gastroenterology specialist  — a doctor who deals with disorders of the stomach and intestines  — who worked in downtown Regina. 

He has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of sexual assault. 

The trial began on Monday with a witness who said Ukabam penetrated her vaginally under the pretence of conducting a physical examination in 2013. On Tuesday, the second complainant testified that Ukabam sexually assaulted on three separate occasions between 2012 and 2014. She said two of the occasions included vaginal penetration. 

On Wednesday the third complainant said Ukabam sexually assaulted her with vaginal penetration in 2017.

On Thursday court heard from a friend of Wednesday's witness, who testified to how the witness acted on the day of her alleged assault.

Later on Thursday, court heard from a fourth complainant who alleged that Ukabam performed an unusual and unnecessary breast exam on her at his downtown clinic without explaining why.

And on Friday, court heard from a fifth complainant — a 66-year-old woman from Regina with Crohn's disease— who alleges that Ukabam sexually assaulted her on June 23, 2014 during a routine appointment. 

The incident 

On June 23, 2014, the complainant testified, she went to her regularly scheduled appointment with Ukabam in substantial pain due to inflammation.

When she arrived in Ukabam's office, she said, there was an intern present. After discussing her pain, she continued, Ukabam said he and the complainant would go to the exam room while the intern waited in Ukabam's office.

The witness said she wasn't surprised that Ukabam was going to give her a physical exam, and she expected him to check her abdomen and possibly her rectum.

She said Ukabam told her to remove all her clothes and cover herself with a sheet. She said this was typical in exams. She said she was lying face up. 

When Ukabam re-entered the room, she testified, he put gloves on and told the witness to turn on her stomach, go on all fours and put her head down. 

The complainant said this made her nervous, as Ukabam had never asked her to do that before. 

He turned around and said I looked sad, could he give me a hug? I was in shock.- Complainant at sexual assault trial of Sylvester Ukabam- Complainant at sexual assault trial of Sylvester Ukabam

Then, the witness said, he touched her vaginal area for 10 seconds, inserted a lubricated gloved finger into her vagina for 30 seconds, and said that he "could feel her stomach."

The complainant said she didn't ask what he was doing, and he didn't tell her what he was doing or explain why. 

"I was the patient, he was the doctor, he was trusted, well–established in his field," she said. 

Afterwards, the witness said, Ukabam removed his finger, and she moved over to the wall because she felt vulnerable. She said she did not expect her vagina would be touched.

The trial of Sylvester Ukabam entered its fifth day on January 14, 2022. (CBC)

When the Crown asked how she knew his gloved finger was lubricated, the witness said: "I could feel it was extremely wet … when I got dressed it was dribbling down my leg."

Ukabam turned to wash his hands, she testified, adding she got dressed as quickly as she could. She said he then watched her pull her pants on. 

"He turned around and said I looked sad, could he give me a hug?" she said. "I was in shock."

He hugged her, and they went back to his office. The witness said he had never hugged her before. 

"I was sad, because the trust was broken," she said.

Furthermore, she said, it was not typical for him to stay in the room while she was getting dressed. 

"I should have waited until he left the room," she said, "but I was in such a hurry to get my clothes on."

After the incident, the complainant said, she was numb and robotic: "I was afraid of him at that point. I never went to his office again."

Reporting the incident

Three days after the incident, the witness said, she told her best friend what had happened. She also told her general practitioner, but said she was not helpful. 

"She stood up, she backed away from me and said: 'Don't tell me any more. You have to go to the college.'" 

Shortly after June 23, 2014, the complainant said, she documented what had happened in the appointment with Ukabam.

She said she reported the incident to the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons in December 2014. In January 2015, she said, they told her is was her word against Ukabam's and that nothing would be done at that time. 

The witness said that years later she received a call from the police, saying that another person had made similar  allegations against Ukabam.

Police had gained access to college records and had found her complaint. She said she co-operated when they asked her whether she would like to join another alleged victim in laying charges.   

On Friday, court heard from a fifth complainant — a 66-year-old woman from Regina — who alleges that Ukabam sexually assaulted her in 2014 during a routine appointment.  (CBC )

Cross-examination

During cross-examination, the witness held her hand up in front of her, resting her elbow on the podium. Later when asked why she did that, she said, referring to Ukabam: "So I wouldn't have to see his face … because it's upsetting to see his face, because it causes me pain."

Ukabam's lawyer Aaron Fox questioned the complainant about how much of her personal life and her stress factors she shared with the former doctor. He also asked about her medical history and the medications she had been on.

The defense questioned the complainant's recollections due to the passage of time, and then he asked her whether she saw Ukabam's finger when it was inside her. She said no, because of the position she was in. 

Fox then suggested to her that maybe she was mistaken that Ukabam's finger was in her vagina. He suggested what she felt was pressure from her rectal exam. 

She denied that: "A finger in your vagina cannot be misconstrued."

Court is adjourned until Monday at 10 a.m. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan. She is also the community reporter for CBC's virtual road trip series Land of Living Stories. Laura previously worked for CBC Vancouver. Some of her former work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, NYLON Magazine, VICE Canada and The Tyee. She holds a master of journalism degree from the University of British Columbia. Follow Laura on Twitter: @MeLaura. Send her news tips at laura.sciarpelletti@cbc.ca

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