Editor’s note: This article discusses sexual assault and difficulties reporting to police.
A woman from Mission, BC, is speaking out after she took the necessary steps to have her alleged rapist criminally charged, but Crown prosecutors declined to take on the case.
Stephanie Bowes told Daily Hive she was sexually assaulted by her ex-boyfriend after he picked her up from a party in 2014.
They had already been broken up for some time, but Bowes asked for a ride because she didn’t want to go home to her parents intoxicated. He was sober and brought her back to his place. Bowes said she passed out, but briefly regained consciousness to find 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 had 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. At the time, Bowes didn’t want to press charges — worried she’d “ruin his life.” But she changed her mind this year when another woman reached out via Instagram saying he did 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 forwarded the case to the Crown.
But Criminal prosecutors didn’t believe a conviction was possible.
Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel for the BC Prosecution Service, told Daily Hive he can’t comment on specific cases, but said the Crown needs a substantial likelihood of conviction before it lays charges.
“At a minimum, a conviction according to law [must be] more likely than an acquittal,” McLaughlin said. “A substantial likelihood of conviction exists if Crown Counsel is satisfied 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 crossing Bowes’ boundaries but stops short of characterizing what happened as sexual assault.
“I just don’t think it’s fair that they’re letting the guy get away with it,” she said. “Like, ‘he thought it was okay’ shouldn’t be a valid defence for sexual assault.”
In an email sent to Bowes, Crown counsel Lisa Grewal said the messages suggested the ex-boyfriend believed the sexual activity was consensual, and he was apologetic that Bowes was hurt.
“I am not saying that [sexual assault] didn’t happen, but rather that we cannot prove it beyond a reasonable doubt,” she wrote.
@stephanieebowes #greenscreen #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 support from others online, the Crown hasn’t budged on its decision about her case.
In August, a Crown representative confirmed to Bowes that its decision remains not to charge her ex-partner.
Victim claims police didn’t adequately investigate her complaint
Bowes tells Daily Hive she’s had trouble from the start going through the justice-seeking process with police.
Through 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’d asked the Crown to reconsider laying charges, but when Bowes asked the BC Prosecution Service they said no such request had come through.
Bowes also claimed officers didn’t speak to her alleged rapist during the course of the investigation. She said an officer told her on the phone that no one had contacted him.
What’s more, Bowes alleged a different officer suggested she speak to witnesses from the party years ago.
“I thought about that and decided I was not comfortable speaking to witnesses. I felt like it looks bad for me to do that and not the police,” Bowes said.
The force has also blocked her from viewing its community Facebook page.
Constable Harrison Mohr with Mission RCMP wouldn’t say whether police spoke with Bowes’ alleged assailant, saying investigations are private until charges are laid.
A police report about Bowes’ case obtained through a Freedom of Information request and seen by Daily Hive only mentions an interview with Bowes and reviewing text messages. It doesn’t mention any additional interviews.
“We would encourage anyone who feels they have been treated unfairly to speak with a supervisor at the detachment, as we strive to ensure that everyone is treated in a professional, respectful and compassionate manner,” Mohr said. “If their concerns are still not satisfied, there is an independent civilian review process available as well.”
When Bowes tried to speak with Inspector Ted Lewko, officer-in-charge of Mission RCMP, the front-desk attendant wouldn’t let her and refused to take a message — as captured in a recording from Bowes’ phone. The front 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 conduct.