A Saskatoon woman is raising concern about the treatment of sexual assault victims after reporting an alleged rape to police.
On Sept. 21, Rylee Schuhmacher took to social media to share her story about an alleged sexual assault in late August and her experience dealing with police.
As of Tuesday, the Facebook post has been shared more than 1,700 times.
Schuhmacher said she went to the hospital and had a rape kit done.
“The police were called in to pick it up and at that point, you’re expected to have a written statement,” Schuhmacher told 650 CKOM Tuesday.
“I honestly felt unwell and wasn’t able to give a written statement at that point,” she said.
Schuhmacher said the police officers at the hospital seemed to understand and encouraged her to come forward.
It was about a week before she worked up the strength to get everything down in writing and turn the statement over to police.
Soon after she was contacted to schedule an interview with the sex crimes department. According to Schuhmacher, that’s when things went downhill.
“I was kind of expecting it to be a little bit retraumatizing because I was reliving the assault, but I wasn’t expecting the questions to be as victim blaming as they were,” she said.
The Saskatoon Police Service said sexual assault reports are taken seriously.
In a statement posted to its Facebook page, the police service said reports are investigated and a decision on criminal charges is made in consultation with the Crown.
“Sexual assaults can be among the most complex and challenging conducted by our service,” the statement read.
“Investigators work closely with the Sexual Assault Centre to understand the impact that these traumatic experiences may have on a person, and we are in no way trying to minimize that.”
Police said they have reached out to Schuhmacher about filing a formal complaint, something Schuhmacher confirmed Tuesday and said she would likely file one “to cover all her bases” but wasn’t sure it would change anything.
Sexual Assault Centre working with police
Heather Pocock is the assistant director of the Saskatoon Sexual Assault Centre. She said cases are still under-reported and there are deeply personal reasons behind whether a survivor goes to police.
“In the first place, people have to come to terms with what happened to them and really sort through all their feelings,” Pocock said. “People are always worried that they might not be believed or that they’re going to be viewed differently by the rest of the world once they do come forward.”
She explained the centre provides support and information to anyone impacted by a sexual assault. While staff can describe the process of reporting an incident to police, people are never pushed to make a statement.
“If they choose to go to police, then we would walk them through making a statement. (We explain) that (police are) going to ask them to give them all the details and how long that will take,” she said, adding the process can be intimidating as people often feel they re-live the crime.
“It’s very detailed. There are standards (police) have to follow. There are reporting requirements they need and it’s just not a nice situation for anyone to have to go through.”
Pocock noted, however, relations with police have come a long way since she began with the centre in the 80s.
She said they have officers’ numbers on file and a protocol to follow at the station. The centre also provides training to new recruits where they talk about the impact of sexual assault on the victim and debunking myths.
— With files from 650 CKOM’s Erin McNutt and Bryn Levy