Law student advocates for better relations between police and sex assault victims

Ava Williams speaks about her experience reporting her alleged rape to London police. Global News

Two months after she turned 18, Western University student Ava Williams alleges she was raped at a keg party.

At the time of the attack, she was intoxicated, but when she reported the incident to London, Ont. police 12 hours later, she says the detective assigned to her file suggested the sex was consensual.

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Her case was deemed unfounded, and dropped by police.

She walked out of the interrogation room and never spoke to police about the incident again.

“I was 18 when it happened, I had just turned 18 two months before,” Williams said.

“It was my first year of university, my first time living away from home. When it happened, I just knew I had to pack it away in my brain and not really think about it and address it.”

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Years later, according to Williams, she finally allowed herself to reflect on the experience.

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She said she started to process her feelings around the sexual assault, and also to think about what happened with police, an experience she refers to as a “second trauma.”

Now a 25-year-old law student at Western University, Williams has become an advocate for improving police relations with sexual assault victims.

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She was the subject of the Globe and Mail’s investigative series, Unfounded, and she has began speaking to students across the country about her experience.

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“Not only did the experience with the police make me doubt the events of the night, but I was left wondering if I had imagined the interview with the police to be worse than it actually was,” Williams told Global News Wednesday.

“That was an interesting and weird place to be because I was there, I was sober. I lived it. But, when an institution instills doubt in an experience it kind of taints the whole thing.”

Williams spoke at length over several years to Globe and Mail journalist Robyn Doolittle for the newspaper’s coverage of how police treat sexual violence.

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Together, the women filed an access to information request for the 2010 London police interrogation video.

A screenshot of Ava Williams’ interview with London police after her alleged rape. Photo courtesy: Ava Williams.

Williams sent directly to Doolittle’s office; she couldn’t watch it herself — it was too painful.

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When the series was first published in February, Williams was simply referred to her by her first name.

It was only several months later, that she went public with her identity.

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In April 2017, Williams filed a civil lawsuit against the London police, in which she alleges that officers relied on rape myths to assess, and finally dismiss, her case.

“The thing with civil litigation, especially with a claim as novel and as pithy as mine, it takes a long time to pan out,” Williams said.

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“We are waiting for the statement of defence from the London police right now, which means it probably won’t go to court, if it does go to court, for a few years.”

Williams said she is prepared for her lawsuit to take a decade.

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In the meantime, she will graduate from law school and is set to article at a firm on Bay Street.

She will speak at the McGill Faculty of Law in Montreal Thursday evening.

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