North Cowichan/RCMP are asking for any witnesses or victims to come forward with information about alleged sexual assaults during the 2018 B.C. Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley.
According to police, they are investigating allegations that some male athletes inappropriately touched a number of female athletes during an evening dance on July 21 at the Cowichan Exhibition Centre during the games.
RCMP said they became aware of the allegations the following morning. Police are now working on confirming the events that took place, along with identifying all victims and suspects in the alleged assaults.
Police said all of the allegations likely involve people under the age of 18.
“While we have initiated an investigation into these allegations, it is imperative that anyone who may have been a victim or witnessed the incident contact police so the matter can be thoroughly investigated”, said S/Sgt. Annie Linteau, BC RCMP Media Relations Officer, said in a release.
Anyone with information about the allegations or may have been victim, regardless of their place of residence, is asked to contact North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP at 250-748-5522.
Games president Kelly Mann says about 300 of the more than 2,300 athletes who competed in the four-day event were at the dance.
Mann says about 30 of the female athletes, aged between 14 and 16, complained of being touched and organizers immediately ended the dance and began gathering details.
He confirmed a complaint was made to the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment the following day and a file was opened, although Mann says no suspects have been identified.
The society is now drafting a letter to be sent to athletes, coaches, parents and affiliated sports organizations, informing them of the situation, offering access to assistance for the young victims and setting up a confidential email to gather more information.
Mann says the incident is very upsetting and his first reaction was to ban dances at all future B.C. games functions but the girls who reported the event asked him to reconsider.
“They are not going to let the actions of a few damage the enjoyment of the many, which is courageous of the young girls to speak that way,” Mann says.
Many of the athletes are required to sign a code of conduct agreement prior to competing and Mann says only a fraction of the large contingent of B.C. Summer Games athletes were involved, but he wants the matter to be widely discussed.
“I’m approaching this as an educational moment for all of us,” he says.
“We need to make sure that our codes of conduct are not just pieces of paper but they are in fact being enacted and reinforced, through whatever means.”
The society will also examine how the dance was set up and supervised.
“This wasn’t a dark room where somebody could get away with something,” he said. “But it was a crowded dance floor of, I’m going to say, 300 people,” says Mann.
The letter to athletes, parents and coaches is expected to be in the mail by Monday and Mann says athletes due to take part in the 2020 B.C. Winter Games in Fort St. John will also be informed.
With files from The Canadian Press