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Photo: Courtesy of Mélodie Morin

Ottawa police say not all ‘avenues had been exhausted’, investigation ongoing

Former University of Ottawa student Mélodie Morin has gone public with allegations that she was sexually assaulted by another student near campus on Sept. 26. She said she was told by the detective investigating the case that charges would not be laid because the alleged perpetrator “thought it was consensual.”

Morin said the Ottawa police closed the case on Nov. 4, but a statement from the police released the day after Morin went public said the investigation is ongoing.

Her story went viral on Nov. 5 after her friend, Margaux Hunter-Moffatt posted an open letter to the Ottawa police on her Facebook page detailing the sexual assault of an anonymous friend, and tweeting at the police multiple times, calling on them to issue a response to the post.

Her story comes to light the same day that a study was released by U of O criminology professor Holly Johnson, which found that some Ottawa women who reported being sexually assaulted to the Ottawa police said they would never do so again due to their treatment.

Alleged assault near campus

Morin said she was sexually assaulted in the early morning hours of Sept. 26 by a young man she had met on campus the week before. “I thought there was a great friendship that was going to be created and everything seemed fine,” said Morin in an interview with the Fulcrum.

After going out with friends for her birthday on Sept. 25, Morin said she went to the man’s house alone after 12 a.m. where he invited her into his room because he told her he wanted to give her a drink.

“So I went in his room and that’s when everything happened,” said Morin. “So basically he was using physical strength to try and have sex with me and I did say, I said, ‘you know what this isn’t happening, I don’t want this to happen.’ I said, ‘no’ and I was trying to really pull away.”

Morin says the alleged perpetrator hit and choked her, and then proceeded to sexually assault her. “The sexual assault lasted for about two hours and during that time I thought that I was going to die,” she said.

Immediately after the incident, Morin said she went home and called the police who took her to the hospital where they performed a rape kit test, and took pictures of her injuries. Morin’s friend, Hunter-Moffatt confirmed that she saw “bruises on her face, neck, torso, and thighs.”

Morin said she filed a report, and one week later spoke to a female detective. “I was very comfortable with her,” she said. “I told her everything that happened, I told her the truth and everything seemed fine. Anyway so that was that, and the conversation went well and I came back home with hope of seeing justice.”

Case is ongoing

Morin said she didn’t hear from the detective again until Nov. 4, when she called Morin to say she was closing the case.

She said the detective told her that both stories “corresponded,” but the alleged perpetrator thought it was consensual, and Morin “was just playing hard to get.”

The Ottawa Police Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit released a statement on Nov. 6 saying that all concluded investigations are reviewed by their supervisor, but “In the case of a report of a sexual assault reported to Ottawa Police on September 26 — those conclusions had yet to be reviewed.”

The statement also said that a second level review by a Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit supervisor “determined that the conclusions of the investigator may have been premature, as not all investigative avenues had been exhausted.”

“As such, the investigation of a sex assault on September 26, 2015 remains under investigation.”

“The Ottawa Police recognizes that the investigator’s findings to date — that were conveyed to the victim on November 4 — may have further impacted her sense of safety and security.”

The Ottawa police did not wish to comment further, as the investigation is ongoing.

Lingering effects

The alleged perpetrator has since tried to contact Morin three times, she said, with two texts and one phone call.

“It took about two weeks for everything to physically be OK,” she said, for the swelling in her internal organs to go down, and for the bruises to go away.

However she’s still feeling the mental effects of the incident including symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder such as trouble eating, disturbed sleep patterns, and night terrors.  “I wake up in the middle of the night, you know, sweating and shaking. I have trouble sleeping, so there’s a lot of those kind of things going on.”

Morin has dropped out of her music program at the U of O because of the incident.

Taking action

Morin’s story first went viral with Hunter-Moffatt’s open letter which called on the police to “re-open her case and bring rapists to justice.”

“She asked me to publicize it and I was completely willing to do so because I think that it’s time that people realized how victims of sexual assault are treated within the justice system,” said Hunter-Moffatt. “Beyond that we’re hoping that if we can garner enough attention it will prompt the police to re-open her case and take it seriously this time.”

They have launched a petition on change.org, titled “Justice For Rape Victims,” which has garnered 1,579 supporters at the time of publication. The petition details the story told on Hunter-Moffatt’s Facebook Page. “Tell the Ottawa Police Department that NO always means NO.”

Both Morin and Hunter-Moffatt have said they’ve heard many stories similar to Morin’s ordeal since the post went up.

“I’ve heard a lot of stories really similar to mine,” said Morin, who believes women who report a sexual assault to the police end up feeling victimized a second time.  “It always seems to end up being the victim’s fault, and this is something I find completely unacceptable, and I find it so frustrating.”

“This is just something that I hear about a lot and I want to do something about it.”