Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavik December 05, 2012 - 6:06 am

Sexually assaulted Nunavik police officer still unpaid

“It’s nasty and it’s personal and you feel very vulnerable"

This photo of Denise Robinson dates from when she served as a police officer with the Kativik Regional Police Force in Salluit. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
This photo of Denise Robinson dates from when she served as a police officer with the Kativik Regional Police Force in Salluit. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Denise Robinson, a Nunavik police officer who was sexually assaulted in 2010 by a fellow officer, still waits for the Kativik Regional Government to make amends.

That’s nearly three years since the sexual assault took place.

And it’s roughly 10 months since Joe Willie Saunders, the officer who assaulted her, pleaded guilty to the assault, and more than three months since Saunders was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Until the day he was sentenced, Saunders remained on salary.

But Robinson, who technically remains a member of the Kativik Regional Police Force, hasn’t been paid since she told KRPF management about the sexual assault and was put on medical leave.

At first she was told that as soon as they received a medical evaluation, they’d straighten out her pay, “but that never happened,” she said.

Robinson did receive some money from workers compensation before transferring to a special program that assists victims.

But that provided less income than her salary.

Robinson meanwhile filed a grievance through her union to get paid.

“They said I wasn’t on duty [when the assault took place] so it wasn’t their problem,” Robinson said.

They also told her that the as an employer, they reserve the right to use any means necessary to defend and protect themselves.

So Robinson hired her own lawyer.

But during all the time that he awaited trial, Saunders was kept on paid administrative duty.

“Isn’t that crazy? When I would continue to call, he would answer the phone.”

Robinson refused two offers to settle, made this autumn, which she calls a “very insulting offer.”

That offer gave her a few months salary, but asked that she quit her job with the KRPF, and write an agreement not to press any further legal actions.

While she copes with mounting debts, Robinson also says she’s becoming more focused on the bigger picture: the need for women in similar situations to get more support from their employers.

She’d like to see the KRPF demonstrate how it plans to handle sexual assault cases in the future.

Robinson said there is an online program for police forces on how to handle sexual assault cases.

“There is stuff out there, and they need to use it,” she said.

And the lack of support given by the police to Nunavik women outside the force who are victims of assault is a big problem, she said.

Robinson said she knows of one woman in Nunavik who ended up in detention after making a complaint to police about an assault.

“It’s almost like it’s your own fault,” she said.

Since going public last month with her story, Robinson said she has received letters of support from Taiwan, Sweden and Germany.

“But it’s very difficult to go public with kind of thing. It’s nasty and it’s personal and you feel very vulnerable,” she said.

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