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Victim Blaming and Slut Shaming at Toronto Police Gang Rape Trial

The three Toronto cops are accused of raping a female colleague after a night of heavy drinking.
Manisha Krishnan
Toronto, CA
June 14, 2017, 6:02pm
Jake Kivanc

She wanted it but changed her mind later. She was flirtatious. She wore slutty clothes. She's a liar.

Anyone paying attention could call these assertions out for what they are—rape myths. But that hasn't stopped the lawyers defending three Toronto cops accused of gang raping a female colleague from trotting out these tired tropes, one by one, in an ugly trial unfolding before the courts right now.

The male officers—Joshua Cabero, 28, Leslie Nyznik, 38, and Sameer Kara, 31—have all pleaded not guilty to sexual assault and gang sexual assault and are being represented by three separate attorneys at the same trial. The specific allegations against them are horrific: they stand accused of raping the complainant vaginally, orally, and possibly anally on January 17, 2015, after a night of heavy drinking.

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The complainant testified that she has few memories of the alleged rapes, which she said took place after she and the men went to a hotel room the officers had booked for the night, following hours of drinking at various Toronto bars. Kara was already at the room, having vomited earlier in the night. The complainant said Nyznik forced her to perform oral sex on him, and that all three men had non-consensual sex with her. She testified that she remembers hearing Kara say "Stop it, she's out," at one point, and that she later woke up with Kara beside her on the bed and collected her clothes and left, feeling extremely sick. She believes she may have been drugged.

The defence hasn't yet begun to lay out their case. But based on questions they've asked during cross-examination, they're suggesting the complainant, a parking enforcement officer whose identity is protected by a publication ban, had consensual sex with the three men she said raped her and then made up a story later because she felt embarrassed.

"I'm suggesting to you that what happened on the early morning hours of Jan. 17 was that you got into a panic, filled with regret about what you had done and in a panic about what was going to happen to your reputation if word got out you had intercourse with three officers," Harry Black, who is representing Nyznik, said to the complainant last week. Black also called out the complainant for wearing a low-cut top to the event, which was dubbed Rookie Buy Night, because she wanted attention from male officers.

According to the CBC, he asked "did you wear a really low cut top to team-build or network?" "I'm going to suggest you went to that party with the hope, with the anticipation, that by the end of the night you would be in that rented hotel room having sex."

Alan Gold, who is defending Kara, suggested that she consented to the acts but simply doesn't remember because she was intoxicated.

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Yesterday, two fellow parking officers who described themselves as close friends of the complainant took the stand to describe the events that took place after the alleged assault.

One, a woman we'll refer to as T.C., said she took the complainant to the hospital to have a rape kit administered. The defence asked her to read text messages between herself and the complainant in which T.C. said "I really think you should get checked out asap and take pictures of the bruises just to cover your ass."

"She said 'These guys assaulted me.' Why on earth would you say take pictures of the bruises just to 'cover your ass'?" asked Black. "Do you know what covering your ass means? It means to protect yourself from any criticism."

T.C. replied that her friend should have evidence, "in case it came to something like this."

While the two women waited for hours in hospital, they also Google searched the date rape drug—a fact that the defence has pounced on to make it seem like part of a carefully crafted narrative.

"You started creating a narrative that would render you blameless for anything that happened in that room," Black told the complainant when he confronted her about the searches.

The defence also wanted to enter into evidence what Black described as "sexting" between the complainant and another officer (not one of the accused) who was also out partying that night. However, Justice Anne Molloy ruled against it.

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"This is walking straight into the stereotypes and rape myths about how a woman is going to behave, and that is not appropriate," she said.

Recently, the Canadian government tabled legislation to amend the Criminal Code with respect to sexual assaults.

Bill C-51 explicitly states that a person who is unconscious cannot give consent. If passed, it will also tighten up what is known as the rape shield law, by making it illegal to use a sex assault complainant's sexual history to undermine them in court or suggest that they did give consent. The bill recommends not allowing in court past texts, emails, videos, and photographs relating to a complainant's sexual history for the purpose of discrediting them or establishing consent.

Based on this trial alone, these reforms can't come soon enough.

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