Closing system

Civil lawsuit alleges 2 Victoria realtors drugged and sexually assaulted client

DISCLAIMER: This story contains disturbing details

It’s a secret she says she kept for nearly three years – what happened the night she said she was sexually assaulted by two Victoria realtors she hired to sell her house.

“I did my best to put everything away and get going,” she told Go Public. The woman – whom CBC News does not name because she is an alleged victim of sexual assault – is in her 30s.

Sitting in her attorney’s office in Vancouver, she says the assault took a toll on her mental health and she wants to be held to account – so she files a civil lawsuit to get it.

She alleges that in August 2018, her real estate agents Bowman Rutledge and Andy Rogers lured her to the Victoria office of the luxury real estate agency Engel & Völkers on Vancouver Island, where the assault took place . The company is also named in the lawsuit.

She decided to prosecute, she said, after first contacting Victoria Police.

Bowman Rutledge, left, and Andy Rogers, seen here in a 2016 marketing photo, were a real estate team at the time of the alleged assault. (Facebook)

“The experience was horrible,” she said. “It was… traumatic and not at all treated with care or compassion.”

She said the officers she spoke to were inexperienced and did not seem to understand the trauma she had suffered.

A spokesperson for Victoria Police said he could not speak to the details of his case, but said “the patrol officers are all trained to respond to sexual violence” and that “the survivors … have the right to tell their story, when, where and to whom they choose. ”

The lawsuit was filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court last week.

Victims of sexual assault increasingly appear to seek justice through avenues other than criminal proceedings, such as civil lawsuits and social media, says Kat Owens, project director at the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund.

Experts have estimated that only around 5% of women report sexual assault to the police, and of those cases, only around 11% result in convictions.

Barriers like fear of being blamed or not being believed, fear of retaliation, and fears of further trauma are some of them.

Owens says survivors still want accounts.

“They don’t go through the criminal justice system and so, through this frustration, they are looking for alternatives,” she said.

What’s in the trial

The civil statement indicates that the plaintiff agreed to meet with Rutledge for a drink at a local bar to celebrate the sale of her house.

When she got outside the bar, the claim says, Rogers was also there.

He alleges that before going for a drink, two men said they had to stop by their real estate agency to do paperwork. Once there, the claim says, they “offered the complainant a glass of wine which they had drugged”.

The woman says the men lured her to this Engel & Völkers store in Victoria, then drugged and sexually assaulted her. (Mike McArthur / CBC)

The lawsuit details how Rogers performed sexual acts on her, while Rutledge masturbated near her face.

Go Public contacted the men about the civil suit, but none responded.

None of the defendants have been criminally charged and the allegations have not been tested in court.

The owner of Engel & Volkers on Vancouver Island, Scott Piercy, said in a statement, “We remain a dedicated, professional and ethical team of licensed advisors and these allegations do not represent who we are. Sexual misconduct is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated within our industry or our community. ”

Mental health affected

The civil suit says the plaintiff “suffered serious injuries” ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to anxiety, depression and lowered self-esteem.

Injuries like this are the reason the woman’s lawyer Janelle O’Connor says she sees more survivors of sexual assault filing civil claims.

Lawyer Janelle O’Connor said survivors of sexual assault are seeking compensation for the effects on their mental health. (Maggie MacPherson / CBC)

“The criminal justice system punishes perpetrators, while the civil justice system offers survivors compensation for what they have endured,” said O’Connor, who specializes in civil sexual assault cases.

“I think as a society we are starting to better understand the impact that sexual assault can have on mental health… and I think we are seeing more and more survivors wanting to be compensated for it. “

Civil cases also have a lower standard of proof than criminal cases, O’Connor says. “What we are looking for is the balance of probabilities – so a 51% chance that the incident occurred. In a criminal trial, there can be no reasonable doubt that it did.”

Social media trial

The woman behind the civil lawsuit said that in March a friend shared a disturbing story about another alleged assault that triggered feelings of guilt for remaining silent about her own experience.

“I was filled with so much anger,” she said. “I didn’t know how I was going to keep moving forward if I didn’t do something.”

She posted her allegations against the realtors on Survivor Stories Project, an anonymous Victoria-based Instagram account created last year by three sexual assault survivors to provide a platform to hold suspected sexual predators accountable.

Before filing her civil complaint, the woman posted a graphic warning to other women on this anonymous Instagram account, Survivor Stories Project. (Instagram)

Both men firmly denied any wrongdoing.

“I have three little sisters and I would never want this to happen to them,” Rutledge said in a video on his Instagram account. “I would absolutely never do that to anyone.”

Rogers released a statement saying he and Rutledge “respect, appreciate and admire” the survivors who share their experiences on the platform. “The allegations made against us, however, are false and vehemently denied.”

They then moved to another real estate agency, which fired them the day after the details on Instagram went viral.

The couple’s former employer, Engel & Völkers, issued a statement saying the claims were “concerning and deeply disturbing” and that “we take this seriously”.

WATCH | A woman sues her 2 real estate agents, alleging that they drugged and sexually assaulted her:

Civil lawsuit alleges 2 Victoria real estate agents drugged and sexually assaulted their client | Go in public

A woman from British Columbia alleges in a civil lawsuit that her two former real estate agents drugged and sexually assaulted her in their office. 2:10

One of the creators of the Survivor Stories Project said that survivors “just want to be seen, heard and believed.” CBC News keeps its identity confidential for security reasons.

“They feel so validated just because other people are seeing and hearing their story for the first time,” she said. “It’s like they’ve been holding their breath for far too long.”

She says women also use the page to warn others about someone they don’t consider safe.

“They’ll say, ‘I know he’s on dating apps. I know he goes to nightclubs and bars. And I just want other people to know that.'”

Since its inception, the narrative has recounted the alleged actions of well-known men in the community, which has resulted in some the loss of their jobs, the closing of certain businesses and, in one case, the contribution to criminal charges.

Similar social media accounts have popped up in various forms across Canada, largely motivated by the #MeToo movement and praised by advocates who see them as a medium for survivors of sexual assault who don’t trust the criminal justice system.

Catherine Willson, a Toronto lawyer who works in social media and defamation, says hosts of social media accounts where allegations of sexual assault are posted face prosecution. (Golden, Sloan, Nash & Haber, LLP)

“They can ask for a lot of money”

But these social media accounts are not without risk for people who post allegations or those behind the accounts, says Catherine Willson, a Toronto-based civil lawyer who specializes in social media and defamation law. .

She says someone who has been falsely accused and lost their job, seen their marriage torn apart or their social status destroyed, can fight back.

“If they can determine who is filing the complaint, or perhaps the site host, then they can bring a civil and libel action,” Willson said. “And they can ask for a lot of money.”

At the same time, says Willson, she understands why the survivors want to name and shame. “There are women who have been hurt. And there doesn’t seem to be a satisfactory cure for many of these women.”

The woman at the center of the trial says she is not sure a civil case will bring her peace.

She says she’s still intimidated by the men she’s accused, but says she’s ready to confront them in civil court – not just for herself, but to inspire other survivors of sexual assault .

“I really hope this [helps] other women come forward, “she said.” And know that they don’t need to be silent anymore. They can come forward and be supported on their own terms, at their own pace and at their own pace. “

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