Many residents in an east Winnipeg neighbourhood said they were shocked after hearing their local city councillor has been charged with sexual assault.
Transcona councillor Russ Wyatt was arrested for sexual assault on Tuesday evening.
Creig Sigurdsonm, who has lived in Transcona all his life, was stunned to hear of the allegations against Wyatt.
“That’s shocking,” he said. “You don’t expect that of someone.”
WATCH: Residents of the Transcona ward react to hearing about Russ Wyatt charges
Global News learned that a woman reported the alleged sexual assault Jan. 14.
On Jan. 19, Global News called Wyatt to ask about the allegations but he refused to comment at the time.
LISTEN: to the audio recording of Russ Wyatt speaking with Global reporter Timm Bruch
One day after that call he entered rehab for alcohol and drug addiction, and remained at a treatment centre near Gimli for 79 days.
Wyatt returned to his city council seat in May.
In June, during the Pride Parade, Wyatt came out as a bisexual man.
Last month, he announced he wasn’t going to to seek re-election in Transcona, then days later said he may have changed his mind, when he told Global News he was also mulling over a run for mayor.
Andrea Scott, who moved to Transcona two years ago, said she was surprised to hear about the charge against Wyatt.
“He does need to take accountability if there’s truth and merit in what has been charged against him,” Scott said.
Emily Kreus said she will give Wyatt the benefit of the doubt, as the allegation has not been proven in court.
“He’s a nice guy, I was talking to him last week,” Kreus, who has lived in Transcona for 47 years, said.
Wyatt responded to a text from Global News late Wednesday, saying:
“I have no comment to make regarding the allegation against me other than to say that I am innocent of any wrong-doing. I will defend myself in a court of law and will only respond further to the allegation in a court room.”
WATCH: Winnipeg sexual assault councillor says there is a lot of privilege that comes with power
The sexual assault crisis program at Klinic Community Health is reporting a slight increase in the number of people coming forward to report sexual assaults.
Councillor Jerra Fraser said when it comes to consent all parties need to have equal power.
“There’s a lot of privilege that comes with power,” Fraser said.
“There can’t be consent present when there is this power imbalance. I think that also really shapes someone’s ability to feel that they will be believed coming forward. So there’s a lot of layers that can come with that, the decision to reach out or even ask for help, or even to disclose their story can be really a difficult decision, especially with this fear of not being believed.”
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