Standing tall, speaking out - The Orca

Standing tall, speaking out

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Jody Vance: Because one girl had the courage to stand up and tell her story to the police, an alleged sexual assaulter was identified.

Today’s Middle could be the plot of a superhero blockbuster — but this story is 100% true.

A couple of weeks ago, our family got together with friends for our first outdoor dinner with all the kids, and everyone.

Fully vaccinated freedom was magic. We were all so happy to see one another after far too long. You know that story, I’m sure.

Amidst the din of teens talking video games and school friend drama we could overhear the story from the youngest of the bunch, about how she’d been “grabbed” by a stranger while at Granville Island.

It was a jolt to hear the incident recounted by this wee one, but it was no surprise to her mom and dad. They knew and were understandably rattled by it all. Hearing her share it with the group was nothing short of heartbreaking.

She said it scared her, and made her feel less safe when out in public. NO KIDDING.

The grope was “out of nowhere” and, clearly, she felt helpless to do anything about it. She felt shameful at not being able to describe this man’s face.

“I only saw the back of his head, that he was wearing a hat, and had brown socks.” Etched in her mind was his attire top-to-bottom, right down to the colour of his socks. Poor kid was haunted by this faceless stranger and his abuse of her young body.

You could tell by the tone of her voice that she was trying to make it sound all right, but traumatized by the experience.

We adults shook our heads at the tragic loss of innocence and cursed that awful man for doing this to a sweet little kid.

Then, the plot twisted.

Working on radio last week, I received an alert from the Vancouver Police Department about “a number of groping incidents around False Creek.” They asked that if anyone had had a similar experience to reach out to the Sexual Assault Unit of the VPD.

I thought of that girl and how tortured she was, having heard that she wasn’t headed out in the neighbourhood these days due to anxiety, and wondered if reporting it might help, or make matters worse.

Rather than deciding for her to default to my generation’s outdated “well, what can be done anyway?”,  I sent the info to her mom.

They discussed and decided to report it.

The VPD were incredible with this young girl; mindful of her trauma and thoughtful in their want for details. They had specially trained women detectives, and when they realized they’d need an official statement, went out of their way to make that nerve-wracking step as gentle as possible.

Her account led to footage of the incident being retrieved — and wouldn’t you know, dressed as described, they found it.

The footage clearly shows the incident and the face of the alleged criminal, who has been identified by police. Turns out he is known to them and will be dealing with swift and significant consequences.

The story here is less about how this alleged predator might just land behind bars, and more about the power of speaking up. The greatest news here is that the kid who felt shattered by being sexually assaulted now knows that standing up and saying something just might see justice done.

We are all so incredibly proud of her, and the strength she displayed by stepping forward.

The VPD team were nothing short of incredible. There are so many headlines slamming law enforcement these days, so it’s important to acknowledge when the system works: Bravo to the VPD Sex Crimes Unit.

The Middle today is a reminder to NOT remain silent when someone treats you inappropriately.

The days – and indeed generations – of “just deal with it” are over.

Use your voice, or amplify that of another, in the name of what’s right. Tell your kids to tell you, or anyone when something happens hat makes them uncomfortable.

There is great power in standing up for yourself. Just ask this girl who thought she’d been a victim — today she’s 100% more Captain Marvel, saving us all.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.