[Content warning: sexual assault, kidnapping, rape]
In the past few months, women in BC and Alberta have been posting their accounts of attempted abductions from possible human traffickers on social media. We were able to speak with two of them.
Background: women calling attention, RCMP dismissive
On February 6, 2021, the Coquitlam RCMP released a public statement asking people to stop posting untrue internet abduction rumours.
The statement from the RCMP created an uproar online, and women called out the RCMP for its racist, patronizing and indifferent attitudes and for ineffective investigations.
Women stated that they need to reach out to others on social media to warn other women, and to seek meaningful support.
Mainstream media outlets published articles about the press release and the response from women, and the Coquitlam RCMP expressed regret for using the term “rumours,” and how it angered some and has left others to feel dismissed. The RCMP continued to discourage social media posts that could be shared by “someone who is not a witness or victim” with what they called “third-party reports” by parties who cannot corroborate the facts.
On February 10, 2021, the Union Of BC Indian Chiefs, an organization that represents a majority of the province’s elected chiefs, released a public statement regarding the Coquitlam RCMP’s press releases. One section reads:
“In their response, the RCMP failed to address the fear, mistrust, and colonial forces that compel women to depend on social media mobilization instead of the police for their safety, and ultimately dismissed the deeply rooted fear and trauma that plagues Indigenous women as a result of the ongoing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) crisis.”
There is a long history of Indigenous women, migrant women, and children in foster care being targeted by traffickers. These are demographics that have long been described as “vulnerable” or “at risk.” What these labels translate to are women and children who are impoverished, who experience racism, who lack access to or an understanding how to utilize supportive services.
Furthermore, many of these people share that these services, such as the RCMP, which people usually rely for reporting incidents and for filing Missing Person’s Reports, are infamous for racism and a general lack of interest in helping out.
Women are continuing to utilize social media to share their experiences, and to warn other people out there that abductions are on the rise. Many of the women targeted are petite in size, and reports of children escaping abductions are also on the rise. Women are making posts about the locations of these abductions, along physical descriptions of the perpetrators and the vehicles.
Telling their stories, speaking out
In January and February, two Native women, Danielle Jack and Shavonne Mountain, who reside in the Merritt, BC, area, began posting about their experiences. Danielle Jack’s public post about her experience inspired #UnsafeBC on Tiktok, which broadened to #UnsafeCanada. Both women spoke out at the Merritt Valentines March and this past Saturday, March 13, organized the MMIW Take Back Canada rally in Merritt, BC. This event was done in conjunction with others held across Canada.
Both women have shared their experiences with Media Coop, expressing that the violations they experienced are common-place and that many Native women and other women have similar experiences.
Danielle Jack spent several years in foster-care and experienced sex abuse from her foster dad and his friends. She’s experienced a violent sexual assault when she was 12. This January in Merritt BC, Danielle Jack escaped from three men who attempted to drag her into a red van off the street in a residential area. Danielle publicly posted about her experience with the goal of keeping other women safe. She made the conscious choice to not bother reporting this to the Merritt RCMP because of her experience with RCMP when she had attempted to file a report for the rapes she experienced when she was 12.
Danielle Jack’s personal account
[Content warning: sexual assault, rape]
“I can start right at the beginning. When I was twelve, I was walking home, and I was approached by three white men who took me into their car, and who beat and stripped me from my pants and my shirt and my underwear and raped me while one guy drove around. They also sodomized me with a beer bottle. I was beat pretty bad. To make matters worse when they were driving around they actually went down the street where I lived and I saw my house. I saw my mom in the window and I couldn’t even wave to her for help.
I didn’t think I was going to live. I didn’t think I was going to survive. They drove around some streets and when they were done with me they threw me out of the car. And one of them was kind enough to get out and urinate on my head, my hair. I don’t know if they thought that they killed me or they thought I was dead but, once I was thrown out of the car, that’s when the one guy came out of the car and urinated on me.
I don’t know how I got home. I blacked out. I remember my mom putting me in the tub and she was screaming and crying and I just lay there. I blacked out and when I woke up I was in the hospital feeling very hot wondering, what the fuck just happened here?
And we did a rape test, and I gave statements to the RCMP. Nothing happened. I didn’t even get contacted by the police. They didn’t bother to reach out to my mom. Nothing happened. It was just dropped right after that.
I didn’t live in Merritt then. I’m not going to say where it happened. I have a different last name. I changed my last name after that. And because I was so badly abused when they abducted me, I was told I wasn’t able to have kids. But now I have two children. So they didn’t take that from me.
On January 14, [2021,] I was walking to go get my car. And I saw a man a little down the street from me. I didn’t think anything of it. People walk around all the time. And then as he was getting closer he was saying something to me. And I didn’t hear. But he had this really creepy smile on his face staring right at me. And I just asked him ‘What?.’ And then he stretched his arms to the side of him, to try to stop me from going anywhere to go past him, and when he got closer I couldn’t pass him on the sidewalk. Then a red van pulled up by me, and the back door opened, and the guy on the street tried to shove me with his body toward the van. As I was getting shoved closer towards the van, the guy in the back of the van kept reaching his arm out to grab me. He grabbed a hold of my arm, and I fought back. And once I got my arm loose, the guy on the street kept trying to shove me.
And I thought, there was no way I was going to survive a second abduction. I know I wouldn’t have. That was going through my mind. I knew what was going to happen if I got shoved into that van, I knew what would happen to me. And I looked at the guy on the street and I was like ‘Fuck you!’ So I charged right towards him and once he lost grip of me, I ran straight to my friend’s house. I made a bed on her couch and I just stayed there, and then I didn’t report it basically because of my previous experience.
So I took to social media to spread awareness about it. Once I put it out there it went viral. It shot like wildfire. There are so many groups I’m a part of. Some of my friends and family are in these groups and it’s being shared there, and it just took off from there. It played out the way I wanted it to because once I put it out there my initial goal was to spread awareness, so I could help other girls walking around, so that doesn’t happen to them what happened to me. That was my only goal.
Once it got out there, I was contacted by the RCMP. They were calling and I didn’t answer. I don’t answer phone calls from [numbers] I don’t recognize. It just came up ‘Unknown,’ so I didn’t answer. I got several text messages from a police officer who was being very pushy and oppressive and invasive. He was harassing my friend who wasn’t there, who wasn’t present, he kept trying to get her to give a statement. She kept telling him she wasn’t there, she didn’t know what happened. [He’s] harassing her, asking her where I am. They parked at my house and despite being harassed by them I finally lost my cool and had to be very blunt and honest. Basically I just said, ‘You know what? I’m not going to call you. I didn’t reach out to you and I’m not going to get pushed into giving you a statement. Leave me alone.’
We started a movement called #UnsafeCanada. And because my name was out there a lot now, my face, my background too, a lot of women are reaching out to me. A lot of them are sharing their stories. A lot of them don’t want to come forward yet, but they’re getting the strength to, who have stories like mine.
My story is not unique in any way. There are many women out there who have stories like mine. On an average night, [I’m] probably talking about four or five girls a night. Some nights I don’t get any sleep.
Just before the weekend, I was up until six in the morning talking to five women. One of them was suicidal. And just being there for her and talking with her and listening to her was all it took. And that’s a regular night for me. Just being there and listening to them makes a world of difference.
I’ve become somebody that they can reach out to. Someone that they can relate to. And that was the only initial goal. And this happens. It’s very common. We can’t rely on the RCMP. I know. It’s been very well proven to me, and it’s been proven to me continuously because when I listen to what Shavonne is going through and when her and I are talking, I’m like, ‘Don’t fucking back down. This is what they do. They get away with it. This is why nothing ever happens, because they intimidate you. That’s what they do. So once you’re intimidated and back down, then boom, on to the next. That’s what they want. They want that. Don’t fucking back down.’ She has so much support. We’re all behind her”.
Shavone Mountain tells her story of possible trafficking targeting
Shavonne Mountain lives on one of the reserves in the Merritt area, and late one night in February 2021, her car was broken into, and then twice a man tried to break into her house. Later she found acronyms drawn on the back window of her car that identified her and her two small sons that is used by sex traffickers to identify targeted people.
Shavonne chose to contact the RCMP to report these attempted break-ins. She’s had struggles dealing with the RCMP, but wants official reports and investigations conducted by them. She wants the RCMP to be held accountable for how they treat people who turn to them for support.
“I want to push forward and continue to talk to the Merritt RCMP because a big part of me knows that if I don’t, it’s gonna happen all the time,” Shavonne says. “How many women does this have to happen to? Like Danielle when she was young. They brush it under the rug, and that is not okay. And it’s gonna continue to keep on happening. I’ll just have my breakdown moments here and there, but I’m going to keep pushing forward with this.”
Shavonne Mountain’s account
“The first one was on February 2nd . I was home alone with my two children. My husband was in isolation, so he wasn’t home. And my dogs were the ones that made me check, because they started barking. I took a peak out my window and saw that there was someone in my car, so I turned the light on and I opened my door and was like, ‘Get the fuck out of my car or I’ll get my dog after you!’ I only caught a glimpse of him. When he was leaving he told me if I were to call the cops that he would be back.”
Billie: So when you first called the RCMP, did they gather any fingerprints?
Shavonne: “No. Nothing. With the first break-in, the whole inside of my car was completely destroyed. All my stuff in my glovebox was thrown everywhere. My old insurance was in there, but my new insurance and wallet was in the house. The cop took a peak in there, and that was that.
Then it happened again four days later. And that time it was just myself home and our one dog. And somebody tried to come in through the front door and was trying to come through my front windows. So I immediately called the reserve’s security but they were tied up, and they suggested to call 911. Dispatch told me to hide in the bathroom and somebody would be on their way.
Then the cops called me and wanted me to confirm my address. I mean I already gave it to dispatch. So he asked me if the person was still there and I said I wasn’t sure. I don’t think so, but I don’t know because I’m in the bathroom, because dispatch told me to hide in the bathroom. And so he didn’t come out here in a hurry because I said I didn’t know if [the suspect] was still out here. Later [the RCMP officer] also admitted he didn’t come out here with the red and blue lights on because he thought the suspect was most likely gone.
When he first got here his first question to me was ‘How much have I had to drink?’ And then he proceeded to ask other questions. He didn’t even know about the first attempted break in, I had to fill him in. We found a used condom in our driveway. And there were no pictures taken. And then, at the end of it basically told me that it wasn’t related and was probably just someone trying to find a warm place to sleep.
He then told me he couldn’t patrol around my house because there were only two of them on shift. So that night I ended up doing so much driving. My sister was supposed to come here from Kamloops, but I ended up having to pick her up from Kamloops and take her back to my house so she could stay with me. It made for a really long and stressful night.
So after that I think I stayed home for one night and then I went to my mom’s house because my husband was still in isolation. And I only drove my car from here to my moms. And on my way back home I noticed there was ‘1F2BB’. It looked like it had been there for a few days. At first I thought my kids marked my car and I sent a picture of it to my husband, and then he reminded me what it really meant (1 female, 2 baby boys). I know it had probably been written on my car back in Merritt and I was so terrified the whole drive home, like from the passing vehicles.
And I didn’t report it right away cuz I’m like, what’s the point of it? And sure enough, when I called [the Merritt RCMP] and told them what I found on my car, the cop told me that he doesn’t have social media, and he asked why I thought it was related to sex trafficking. I said, ‘because it’s being posted worldwide. What is going on? Isn’t that a red flag in your guys’ system? An Indigenous woman calls you and there’s a 1F2BB on her vehicle.’ I said, ‘It all adds up. I’m home by myself, and a person tries to break into my house twice, and now my car’s being tagged.’
And he just said, ‘I’m not saying it’s not true, I’m just saying I don’t have social media.’
I even offered to send them a picture of the mark on my car. They didn’t take a picture of the mark on my car. Nothing.
The RCMP actually called me today [February 22nd], after they repeatedly kept telling Ash Kelly, a local Merritt reporter, that they’ve been trying to get a hold of me, that they’ve been calling me non-stop. And of course today while I’m in the dentist I get a phone call from them. And I didn’t even want to call back because of the way he said things in his voicemail message.
He said ‘Oh hi, Shavonne, this is Constable ____. I just wanted to discuss with you your statement that you have here with us and stuff that you’re telling the reporter.’ Like, ‘it’s a different story.’
His message was a minute and a half long. And the vibe that I got from it was basically like, ‘Your lying. You’re telling us one story and telling the news reporter a different story.’ So I was super overwhelmed after. The police kept saying they kept trying to call my phone but it wasn’t going through. But I literally sleep with my phone. My phone is always on.
I definitely had a moment outside of Pharmasave, a little old lady came and checked up on me.
But I was so frustrated, because after everything. They don’t call. They don’t do a single thing. And now the only reason why they are calling me is because they’re getting questioned on why they haven’t called me. And so they called today. And I thought, oh, how convenient. My phone is working for them today.”
Billie: So you have a full house now, are you feeling safer now?
Shavone: “Ya because my husband is here, but my anxiety and depression is so bad. Now I’m on new anxiety meds and I have these pills that help me sleep. I had nightmares. I’d wake up and I’m just drenched in sweat. I dreamed of somebody kidnapping me and I’d call out to people and nobody would listen to me. And Bruce would be standing at the window looking for me but he can’t hear me.
Honestly if I didn’t have the support, and when I reached out to Danielle, if I didn’t have that I would’ve tried to brush this under the rug and move on with my life.
I called [Melissa Moses] earlier and she was like, ‘What do you need me to do? What do you want from me?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know, I just need to cry.’
[Melissa Moses, the women's representative with the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, who also lives in Merritt, has been actively supporting Danielle Jack and Shavonne Mountain.]
She said I didn’t have to feel this way, because of the RCMP. I don’t have to justify myself. So she was going to talk to Stu Jackson, the Lower Nicola Indian Band Chief. He was going to talk to her and see what her thoughts were, and maybe instead of me taking a call by myself, we could do a conference call with them there. I feel like if I talk to the police by myself, it’s gonna go two ways. Either I’m going to get super upset, or I’m going to say what’s on my mind and it wont go very well.”
Shavonne Mountain wants people to be able to turn to the RCMP and to be heard, to receive respectful support and effective investigations in cases of attempted abductions, or in missing person’s cases. The Merritt RCMP were present at the March 13th rally. Shavonne did thank them for their show of support.
At this time, they haven’t contacted her again to follow-up with the experiences she reported, and never mentioned the attempted break-ins or issued a community warning about attempted break-ins in their weekly media reports.
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