The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) is being called out for “gaslighting” an assault victim who shared her story on Twitter.
Twitter user @somalidolly posted early Thursday morning that she had been assaulted, physically and sexually, by a man earlier that evening.
She said despite having a black eye and a split lip as a result of the altercation, officers responding to the scene Wednesday night dismissed her concerns, stating there were “two sides” to the conflict.
She did not respond to requests for comment from Global News on Thursday.
With her account of the incident drawing attention on Twitter, the OPS weighed in with its own account in response to her tweets.
The OPS account said officers responded to a south-end Ottawa home at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday where “several people were fighting” and refused to leave the property when asked by the owner.
Police said that “despite physical contact, there was no evidence of an individual assault or sexual assault.” Officers then “de-escalated” the situation and asked the parties to go their separate ways, according to the Twitter account.
These tweets, which have since been deleted by the OPS account, became new targets of frustration for users that had come to the woman’s defence.
The original user herself responded noting her injuries and questioned how police could find “no evidence” of an assault.
The Justice for Abdirahman Coalition accused the OPS of “gaslighting” the woman — psychologically manipulating a victim into questioning their own sanity or recollection of events.
Bailey Reid, a senior advisor for sexual violence prevention at Carleton University, tweeted that the OPS response is a “perfect example” of why assault survivors do not trust police.
The Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women noted that the responding officers might have been exhibiting unconscious bias against a Black woman, and urged the OPS to reconsider its response to the woman.
The OPS later sent a follow-up tweet to the woman apologizing for how the original statement was “worded and received.” The tweet also said an investigator has been assigned to review the file and would reach out to hear her concerns.
The OPS told Global News it would not comment further on the matter.