Editor’s note: This article discusses sexual assault and difficulties in reporting it to the police.
A Mission, BC woman is speaking out after she took steps to have her alleged rapist criminally charged, but Crown prosecutors refused to pursue the case.
Stephanie Bowes told Daily Hive that she was sexually assaulted by her ex-boyfriend after he picked her up at a party in 2014.
They had already been separated for some time, but Bowes asked for a ride because she did not want to go home to her parents drunk. He was sober and brought her back to his place. Bowes said she passed out but briefly regained consciousness and found him having sex with her.
“I woke up the next morning and I didn’t know what to say,” she said. “I just pretended nothing happened and he drove me home.”
She filed a police report shortly after the incident, but it was already too late to complete a rape kit. Bowes did not want to press charges at the time – worried that she would “ruin his life”. But she changed her mind this year when another woman got in touch via Instagram and said he had done the same to her.
Bowes wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again and got back in touch with Mission RCMP. Although her experience with the police was frustrating, the force referred the case to the Crown.
But criminal prosecutors did not believe a conviction was possible.
Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel for the BC Prosecution Service, told Daily Hive he could not comment on specific cases, but said the Crown needs a significant likelihood of conviction before laying charges.
“At least a conviction by law [must be] more likely than an acquittal,” McLaughlin said. “A substantial likelihood of conviction exists if Crown Counsel is satisfied that there is a strong and solid case of substance to present to the court.”
But Bowes believes her case is solid enough, and she has text messages from her ex-partner discussing what happened.
In the messages shared with Daily Hive, the ex-partner apologizes for overstepping Bowes’ boundaries, but stops short of characterizing what happened as sexual assault.
“I just don’t think it’s fair that they let the guy get away with it,” she said. “Like, ‘he thought it was okay’ shouldn’t be a valid defense for sexual assault.”
In an email sent to Bowes, Crown attorney Lisa Grewal said the messages indicated the ex-boyfriend believed the sexual activity was consensual, and he was sorry Bowes was hurt.
“I’m not saying that [sexual assault] did not happen, but rather that we cannot prove it beyond a reasonable doubt,” she wrote.
@stephaniebowes #groenskerm #sa #saawareness #supremecourt #canada #missionbc ♬ Get You The Moon – Kina
Bowes took to TikTok this summer to share her frustrations and warn other women to stay away from her ex-partner. But despite the support of others online, the crown has not budged on its decision on her case.
In August, a Crown representative confirmed to Bowes that she remained determined not to charge her ex-partner.
Victim claims the police did not properly investigate her complaint
Bowes tells Daily Hive she had trouble going through the process of seeking justice with the police from the beginning.
Throughout her time speaking with Mission RCMP, she said her calls were ignored, she was yelled at, and at one point an officer allegedly told her they asked the Crown to reconsider filing charges , but when Bowes asked the BC Prosecution Service, they said no such request had come through.
Bowes also claimed that officers did not speak to her alleged rapist during the investigation. She said an officer told her over the phone that no one had contacted him.
Additionally, Bowes claimed another officer suggested she talk to witnesses to the party years ago.
“I thought about it and decided I wasn’t comfortable talking to witnesses. I felt it looked bad for me to do that and not the police,” Bowes said.
The force also prevented her from viewing his community’s Facebook page.
Constable Harrison Mohr with Mission RCMP declined to say whether police have spoken to Bowes’ alleged attacker, saying investigations are private until charges are laid.
A police report on Bowes’ case obtained through a Freedom of Information request and seen by Daily Hive only mentions an interview with Bowes and review of text messages. It makes no mention of any additional interviews.
“We would encourage anyone who feels they have been treated unfairly to speak with a supervisor at the division, as we strive to ensure that everyone is treated in a professional, respectful and compassionate manner,” Mohr said. “If their concerns are still not met, there is also an independent civil review process available.”
When Bowes tried to speak to Mission RCMP officer-in-charge Inspector Ted Lewko, the clerk wouldn’t let her and refused to take a message — as captured in a recording of Bowes’ phone. The desk employee only offered her a chance to speak with the same officer who suggested she contact witnesses herself.
Bowes is in the process of filing a complaint about the force’s actions.