A former aide for people with disabilities has been accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a coworker at their workplace.
The man pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault on his female coworker and is now on trial before a jury and Justice James Edmond in Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench. The Free Press is not naming him to protect the identity of the victim, who was 40 years old when she went to the police in July 2016.
The accused and the victim both worked as aides for people with physical disabilities in a downtown housing complex, and the assaults are alleged to have happened on nights their shifts overlapped.
She alleged the man sexually assaulted her three times over the course of two months before he ultimately raped her inside the staff room late at night nearly two years ago. She told police the rape happened on a large wooden tabletop that had been placed on the floor. The 55-pound tabletop was put on display for jurors Monday, as Winnipeg Police Service Const. Chad Kendal pointed out areas investigators had swabbed and sent away for forensic testing. The DNA results matched the accused.
"This sexual activity, was it consensual or not? That is the question that you're going to have to decide," Crown prosecutor Katy Sweet told the jury during her opening remarks Monday. Although she emphasized the accused is innocent unless proven guilty, Sweet said the victim will testify.
"I expect she's going to tell you how he started making sexual advances toward her... I expect she'll tell you that she didn't like that, that she told him to stop, but that he didn't stop and that she just didn't know what to do, how to deal with it. I expect she'll tell you that she just froze," Sweet said.
The jury is expected to hear from the victim later in the trial, which is scheduled for 10 days. On Monday, jurors heard from Kendal as well as two other employees — one who supervised both the accused and the victim, and another who was present during a disciplinary meeting called to determine whether the accused should be fired based on the allegations.
At the meeting, court heard, the accused apologized for crossing workplace boundaries and responded "OK" when he was told the police were involved and he could face criminal charges. At the time, he said he had offered the woman money for a taxi so she wouldn't have to wait for the bus at the end of her shift. Then, he said he asked her for a kiss and "one thing led to another."
The woman had called her supervisor around 2 a.m. after the incident to say she wouldn't be in for work that morning or for the rest of the week. When the supervisor questioned her, she said she'd been assaulted at work.
"I could tell by her voice there was something wrong," the supervisor testified.
During cross-examination of the witnesses, defence lawyer Adam Hodge confirmed there were security cameras installed at the housing complex where the victim and the accused were working. He questioned why police didn't request the footage.
The victim also alleged that the accused had tried to force her into a tenant's suite and onto his couch one night, but before he could do so, the tenant called out, "Who's there?" Hodge asked Kendal why he didn't try to interview the tenant to confirm the victim's account. Kendal replied that the comment "who's there?" as told to him by the victim, meant the tenant hadn't seen anyone and wasn't an eyewitness.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @thatkatiemay
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.