Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Former youth worker accused of sex abuse

Allegedly plied teen boy with drugs, alcohol

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A former Winnipeg youth-care worker has been accused of sexually corrupting and abusing a troubled teen she took under her wing more than two decades ago.

Court documents obtained by the Free Press show the 49-year-old woman was formally charged Monday with sexual assault and sexual exploitation for incidents that allegedly occurred in 1992 and 1993 at Knowles Centre, a treatment centre for at-risk youth.

She will make her first court appearance on May 12 and is currently free on bail. None of the allegations has been proven and the woman is presumed innocent. The Free Press does not normally name accused persons in sexual-assault cases unless they have been convicted.

The alleged victim, now in his late 30s, recently came forward to Winnipeg police. His complaint triggered an extensive investigation by members of the sex-crimes unit.

Justice sources say the allegations surround a six-month period when the boy, then about 14 years old, was a resident at Knowles.

He went missing from the facility and staff members expressed grave concern for his safety.

However, it's alleged the boy was actually being harboured at the home of the female care worker, who kept it secret from everyone else at Knowles. While staying with the adult woman, the teen was allegedly given alcohol and drugs in exchange for sex.

Sources say the man was recently motivated to disclose the alleged abuse after watching coverage of the Graham James case and seeing how victims such as Theoren Fleury had broken their silence and spoken out publicly.

The accused woman, who left Knowles several years ago, is reportedly denying any wrongdoing. She has no prior criminal record and is now married with children. Knowles officials were unaware of what was allegedly occurring and declined to comment.

This isn't the first time a female employee at Knowles has been accused of serious sexual misconduct.

In 2012, a 23-year-old former staff member admitted to sexually assaulting a pair of 14-year-old boys she was working with. Melissa Brown was sentenced to two years behind bars and three years of supervised probation. Her name was also placed on the national sex-offender registry.

Justice officials said this was one of the first cases of its kind in Manitoba that involved women who took advantage of their position of power to abuse young male victims. Knowles officials refused to comment on that case, citing privacy issues.

Brown was arrested in 2011 and immediately fired from her job. She attempted to minimize her conduct by claiming the teens were willing participants who encouraged the illicit relationship, court was told.

All of the criminal acts occurred in 2010.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 15, 2014 A4

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