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Victim featured in ‘unfounded’ report responds to London Police apology

A woman whose sexual assault allegations were dismissed by London Police as “unfounded” in 2010 says police are sending a strong message by re-examining old unfounded cases.

“I think the review is a good thing,” Ava said during the Andrew Lawton Show on AM980 Tuesday. “I hope the change is greater in the sense that it goes to police training, and to stereotypes about victims, and… ensuring that victims are able to tell their story if they chose to do so, and that it’s handled in the most respectful and conscientious way.”

Ava, whose last name AM980 is withholding, was allegedly raped during a party near Western University in 2010.

A Globe and Mail report said two women found Ava and put her in a cab back to her residence afterwards. Her parents were contacted, and she was taken to the hospital for an examination. Ava delivered an initial statement at 4:15 a.m. and was then summoned to police headquarters for an interview at 12:38 p.m. without having slept or eaten.

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The Globe and Mail report goes on to say “the detective spends the rest of the interview pointing out problems with her story, mostly about the fact that she had blank periods in her memory.”

“I remember walking out, and telling my parents I never want to feel that way again, because I just felt so small and so stupid,” Ava told AM980. “It was clear to me that [the case] wouldn’t go anywhere because I had been drinking, and because my memory — to quote the detective — ‘my memory didn’t work.'”

“For six years I just carried around a sense of doubt,” she said. “I feel like my whole sense of self and my sense of what happened — both in the police interview and what happened that night — were very skewed and tarnished with doubt that had been placed in my mind.

“I truly walked into the interview thinking [police] would help me, and I was raised to respect police officers — I still do — but it just, it just changes everything. As a survivor you need to feel as though you’re being believed, and not villainized.”
LISTEN: Andrew Lawton speaks with Ava on The Andrew Lawton Show
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The London Police Service launched a review over the weekend of unfounded sexual assault cases dating back to 2010, while Chief of Police John Pare issued a formal apology to victims Monday.

Ava wants to see better training for police officers not just once — but all throughout their careers.

“I think that more focus needs to be on really taking out whatever biases may be within the interviewing detective, and just focusing on what the victim has to say,” Ava said. “Once you feel as though you are not being believed, it shatters everything.”

Victim Services of Middlesex-London (VSML), formerly known as Victim Services of Middlesex County, announced a new partnership with London Police Tuesday, which extends their service from the surrounding county into the city itself.

“In the County of Middlesex, we normally help about 1,000 people or 1,000 calls  per year,” VSML Acting Executive Director Brad Thompson said. “We estimate that the City of London could be — once we’re up and known and fully running, could be anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 calls.”

The new program will work collaboratively with many London Police Service units and have a central office located inside the police headquarters on Dundas St. and Adelaide St.

Thompson says VSML provides short-term support for victims of crime and tragic circumstance, including victims of sexual assault.

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“A sexual assault case would certainly have a high police investigation role, so they would be doing their interviews… and when that is completed, we could certainly be there to be somebody for the victim to speak to, to feel comfortable to be with, in a lot of cases they may be alone so we wouldn’t be leaving them alone, they might need transportation somewhere, they might need some assistance to find a safe place to go, they might also need in the days after, some assistance finding a counsellor.”

The partnership between VSML and the London Police Service started last Wednesday. It was announced publicly Tuesday.

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