Late in the evening of Friday, February 24, a crowd of around 60 people gathered at the steps of the provincial courthouse to protest the decision on a sexual assault case here in St. John’s, delivered only hours earlier. The verdict delivered by a jury found Doug Snelgrove not guilty.
In 2014, a woman was leaving downtown and asked a police officer for a drive home to ensure her safety due to the reports where select taxi drivers had sexually assaulted women they were bringing home. Constable Snelgrove, an RNC officer, agreed to give her a ride home. From there, the RNC officer went into the woman’s home, where sexual acts then occurred. While Snelgrove insists it was consensual, the line is not so simple. The woman said that she was too drunk to remember consenting— which, many feminist organizations have argued—as well as others—consent is not possible while that intoxicated. Furthering the issue is the debate of power held by an authority figure, such as the RNC officer.
“We need to stand up for this kind of injustice. This is not what I want to be doing on a Friday night, but this is what needs to be done,” said Melanie Lynch, a recent graduate of MUN, who was in attendance during the evening.
“It’s just absolutely deplorable that the system has failed us again. It’s saddening. As women we’re told to go to the police if we are sexually assaulted and here it is a police officer the one doing it. So, what are we supposed to do?”
When asked what needs to change to make the system better, Lynch responded:
“There’s not one thing. It’s rape culture, and misogyny is so engrained in everything and we just all need to stand up and listen to one another. If someone says that they were sexually assaulted, we just need to listen.”
The crowd was critical of the media coverage that happened during the court case, with headlines like ‘Woman testifies she doesn’t know if she consented to having sex’, and pictures of Snelgrove crying on the stand. Even going as far to boo NTV and the Telegram for their “continuity of rape culture.”
“There wasn’t even an apology about the title. It was ‘we’re sorry we offended you’, which isn’t a real apology,” said Lynch.
Lynch says that she saw the image circulating of Snelgrove’s ‘grief.’
“You know, he just ruined someone’s life and he’s getting off scot free. He will get a job, and he’s still married and here she is trying to seek justice[…]I’m just a little speechless.”
“I’m here with my mom, who is about to turn 63 on Sunday. She has been my role model and she’s been an activist her whole life. She shouldn’t have to be doing this and it’s so upsetting that this is still happening. She’s been doing this for 40 years.”
Further information about protests regarding the verdict and the RNC is
expected to come soon.