After a hard-fought legal battle with local law enforcement, Aden Withers has settled her civil suit against the Kelowna RCMP.
In 2012, at just 17 years old, Withers reported a sexual assault to the Kelowna RCMP. However, she was subject to brutal and victimizing questioning, in which she was asked if she was “turned on” while she was raped.
She filed a civil lawsuit against the detachment and the interrogating officer Cpl. Kenneth Hall in June 2019.
On January 27, 2019, the two parties reached a settlement which Withers said she’s satisfied with.
“I’m feeling relieved and tired,” she said. “It’s over and done with, thank goodness.”
Though the details of the settlement are confidential, Withers said a “more fullsome” review will be undertaken at the detachment.
“I feel like payouts are always an excuse towards Aboriginal people to make it seem like what they did was right,” she said.
Withers said if she hadn’t brought her case to the public’s attention along with the issue of rape culture in Kelowna, things likely would have turned out differently.
“I think the outcome would’ve been a lot different,” she said. “Bringing this to the media definitely impacted the outcome of the settlement.”
While the experience was draining for Withers, she encourages other rape survivors to share their stories.
“Lots of people have come to me,” she said. “It feels good because that means people are paying attention to the rape culture in Kelowna.”
Over the last six months Withers has been an advocate for surviors, by sharing her story through various mediums and events.
The Kelowna RCMP confirmed all legal claims related to Withers’ experience have been settled.
“We regret this incident and remain committed to improving how our employees respond to victims and investigate allegations of sexual assault,” said Staff-Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, senior media relations officer with the RCMP’s E Division.
“This incident highlighted the importance for the RCMP to continue to review and update our sexual assault investigative training, practices and policies.”
As first reported in the Kelowna Capital News on Oct. 25, 2019, Statistics Canada data shows the Kelowna RCMP classified almost 40 per cent of sexual assault reports as unfounded in 2018. That number is more than double the 15 per cent average across the province and dwarfs the under five per cent averages in Vancouver and Victoria.
The RCMP recently said completed an internal review of the extremely high number of sexual assaults that were deemed “unfounded” by police in 2018 and 2019, however, the results have not yet been made public.