REGINA – Saskatchewan New Democrats are investigating an allegation from a young party member who says she was harassed and sexually assaulted by a party insider.
Interim NDP leader Nicole Sarauer says she first learned about the allegation a few weeks ago and the party’s anti-harassment committee is reviewing the circumstances. Sarauer would not discuss the details.
“We believe survivors. I believe survivors,” Sarauer repeatedly said at a news conference Thursday at the Saskatchewan legislature.
The Canadian Press is not identifying the woman because it has not spoken to her and does not name alleged sexual assault victims without their consent.
However, in a story the woman published online, she said she was sexually assaulted in late August when the staffer, who was also a former provincial candidate, visited her house during a byelection campaign.
She alleged the assault was preceded by three years of harassment by her alleged attacker that started when she 16. She said the man was 11 years older than she was.
She said she didn’t tell anyone because “even if I did speak up, I expected to be ignored, shushed, it would be swept under the carpet. He was a candidate, and I was some teenage kid.”
The young woman said when she did say something, she discovered she was not the only woman being harassed. She wrote that “at least half the young women in the party shuddered and rolled our collective eyes.”
Some of them had complained to the party about the man’s behaviour, she said.
“The Saskatchewan NDP had identified the problem, and completely failed to address it. The party, and so many people within positions of power within it, knew what kind of person (he) was, they just didn’t care,” she wrote.
The man has also been on the executive of the Saskatchewan NDP.
Saskatoon police would only say that a complaint was made in September.
“Our sex crimes unit is investigating it in correlation with the Crown prosecutor,” said police spokeswoman Julie Clark.
The Canadian Press is not identifying the man because no charges have been filed and he could not be reached for comment.
Sarauer, who is a lawyer, would not discuss the man’s status with the party, but did note that the anti-harassment committee has the authority to kick somebody out.
The woman, in her blog, said that after word of her allegations circulated, “he was scrubbed from everyone’s social media, and his candidate page was taken down.”
Sarauer said there will also be an internal review to find out what happened.
“I’m not going to stand out here and tell you that we’re going to be finger-pointing, but we’re going to be looking at how this situation was dealt with and how we can better deal with that situation in the future.”