A British Columbia woman is speaking up about women’s safety, consent and police handling of sexual assault cases after a disturbing incident in North Vancouver’s Lynn Canyon Park.
The woman, who has asked not to be identified for her privacy, said she was sexually assaulted while walking the trails around 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The man allegedly groped her, grabbing her buttocks from behind.
“I felt his fingers dig into that intimate part of my body,” she said. “As soon as that happened I pulled out my camera, I took video of him and I immediately called 911 in order to ask for help.”
In a video shared with Global News, the suspect can be seen walking away as the woman chases after him, shouting, “What makes you think it’s okay to smack me in the ass? Turn around!”
The man tries to shield his face from view of the cellphone, and when confronted about the alleged groping, responds, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He attempts to knock the phone down several times, and the woman tells him she’ll be reporting the incident to North Vancouver RCMP.
“I tried to bring as much attention to what he had done as I could in that moment,” the woman described in a Tuesday interview, “and as well, let him know this is not okay, and I’m not going to let you do this to me, and you’re not just going to walk away laughing like he did. He was laughing.”
The woman said she was left shaken after the confrontation, but the North Vancouver RCMP’s response left her feeling even more uncomfortable.
She said she called 911 within minutes of the alleged assault and stayed in place as per the dispatcher’s instructions, even though she feared the suspect was still in the area. Nearly an hour later, however, no one had come to meet her.
When she called back, she learned an officer had not yet been assigned to the case. She drove herself to the detachment and spoke to an officer, who apologized for the confusion and delay.
“A woman was left sitting by herself following a sexual assault, believing that help was on the way when it was not,” she said.
“I appreciate that the police can’t be everywhere and that they become inundated with calls, but in this instance, it would have been reasonable for somebody to contact me and tell me there would be a delay in attending.”
On Monday evening, after Global News inquired about the case, North Vancouver RCMP issued a public safety warning about the incident and provided a description of the suspect.
In a Tuesday interview, Sgt. Peter DeVries confirmed the woman called 911, the case had not been assigned by the time she called back an hour later, and the RCMP regretted the delays.
“It was unfortunate there were a number of other high priority calls that just happened to be going at the same time,” he explained.
“Because this person had left and the victim was no longer in view of this person, the assessment was made that there was no imminent risk to her personal safety.”
DeVries said officers are working with the woman now and the Mounties are sorry she had a negative experience in reporting the alleged assault.
“It was really unfortunate for her that she had to wait that long and ended up driving herself to the detachment. That’s an area of improvement for us,” he told Global News.
“This is one of those situations where there was sort of a constellation of factors came into play and we truly are sorry she had this experience. It really was unfortunate.”
After the woman drove to the detachment, officers acted swiftly to search the area around the Varley Loop Trail and Rice Lake Road, where the alleged sexual assault took place.
They were unable to uncover any evidence, interview witnesses or apprehend the suspect, she said, as it was nearly two hours after the incident.
“This entire incident was vehemently unacceptable and it’s an abhorrent display of neglect and ineffectiveness on the part of the police in addressing a sexual assault, and prioritizing women’s safety,” she said.
“They dropped the ball.”
The woman said she shared her story both to highlight the importance of accountability and policy improvement when it comes to police handling of sexual assault, and to help ensure other women don’t encounter the same fate.
“I wanted for this to be shared with other women so they can keep themselves safe.”
DeVries said North Vancouver RCMP is confident it will identify the suspect and make an arrest with help from the woman’s video footage. He applauded the woman for standing up to the man, and reminded the public that individuals who encounter a dangerous situation must prioritize their personal safety.
Anyone with information on this incident or the suspect is asked to contact the detachment at 604-985-1311.