Women say police can do better

New West police choose not to speak to protesters - stand by previous comments

Volunteers and frontline workers from Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter gathered outside the New Westminster police station Wednesday morning to protest what they are calling the police's failure to protect women from violence.

"We're in New Westminster today to deal with the death of Karen Nabors and Jill Lyons, who were killed both in August and the police still haven't come to a conclusion as to what that was," said Summer-Rain Betham, a frontline worker at Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter.

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Betham said her organization was upset with the way police everywhere have been dealing with cases of rape, abuse and violence against women.

"The police need to arrest the men - the johns, the pimps and the traffickers - and stop arresting and charging the women, who are trapped and then forced into ... prostitution," she added.

Trisha Baptie, former prostitute and cofounder of EVE - formerly Exploited Voices now Educating, was at the protest sharing her story and experiences with police. While she admitted that police response to violence against women, and prostitutes in particular, has improved, there's still a ways to go.

"These women (Nabors and Lyons) died and we still don't know why. We can only make assumptions, which is unfair to everyone involved," she said.

Baptie also added that in many cases women working in the sex trade are expected to protect themselves.

"We're tired of the women being blamed for the violence that's being perpetrated upon them. We're tired of women being told they live a high-risk lifestyle and being abandoned," she added.

According to Rape Relief, they receive numerous calls from women in New West who don't even bother reporting assaults and abuse to police.

"We have many women who call us from New Westminster instead of calling the police or aren't interested in using the police because the lack of faith that women have in police," said Hilla Kerner of the women's organization.

This information is troubling, Kerner said, and she hopes a meeting with representatives from New Westminster's police force will shine a light on how many cases of violence against women lead to charges and convictions.

While New Westminster police declined to formally address protesters and media outside the station, Staff Sgt. Paul Hyland told The Record after the demonstration that the department was standing by the statements it made late last week.

In a written statement, the New Westminster police denied that cases involving violence against women weren't being properly investigated. Rather, the department was adamant it takes these types of cases very seriously.

"The dedicated men and women police officers of the NWPD are committed to ensuring these types of offences are vigorously investigated and the perpetrators held accountable where evidence exists to do so," stated the release.

The department, which was the first in the province to establish a domestic violence response unit, also runs a 24/7 victim assistance unit made up of staff and volunteers who provide support to all victims of crime in the community, the release stated.

As for the investigation into the deaths of Jill Lyons and Karen Nabors, police have no new information to release at this time, and Hyland added that any information would come from investigators with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

In their last update, police said they were waiting for the toxicology reports for both Lyons and Nabors. It's still unknown whether these reports have been completed and as of now, the cause of death in both cases remains unknown.

Investigators could not be reached for an update at press time.

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