The main complainant in the Steven Galloway case has gone to court seeking a publication ban on her identity. The unusual move – her name has already been made public – follows the launch of a defamation lawsuit against the woman by Mr. Galloway, a bestselling Canadian novelist and former head of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia.
Lawyers for the woman argued in a Vancouver courtroom Tuesday that not protecting her identity would cause harm to the woman, and lead to a chilling effect on disclosures of sexual assault or harassment in general.
In an affidavit presented in B.C. Supreme Court, Mr. Galloway said the allegations of rape, sexual assault and assault against him are false and have caused him extreme devastation. “Until the accusations are exposed as lies in an open and just proceeding, I feel I will never escape the stain of the accusations."
Further, his lawyer argued the woman essentially outed herself by mounting an art exhibit last year about being “sexually harassed, assaulted, and abused by a professor.”
The case, which has attracted intense interest, stretches back more than three years, but this is the first time anything related to it has been heard in court.
The woman, a former UBC student, had alleged to the university in 2015 that she was sexually assaulted and harassed by Mr. Galloway. He was suspended and an independent investigation was conducted by retired B.C. Supreme Court judge Mary Ellen Boyd. She found on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Galloway had not committed sexual assault. He was fired in June, 2016.
After arbitration, Mr. Galloway was awarded more than $240,000 from UBC last year for violating his privacy and damaging his reputation.
He then launched the lawsuit against his accuser and more than 20 others. The lawsuit named the woman, who had been known previously as M.C. (for main complainant).
The Globe and Mail decided not to reveal the identity of the woman, who has never spoken publicly. But other media outlets did name her. Court heard that the day before her name was revealed, her website received nine visitors. The next day, it had nearly 8,000 visitors. The woman has since experienced harassment, difficulty sleeping and suicidal thoughts, court heard.
In an affidavit read in court, M.C. said she made her complaint to UBC with the understanding that it would remain confidential.
Her lawyer David Wotherspoon argued that victims can be retraumatized if their names are publicized and the broader result could be a disincentive for other alleged victims to come forward. He read an e-mail that M.C. had received from a stranger, calling her a “lying whore” and wishing her a lengthy prison sentence.
Central to the publication ban case is the art exhibit M.C. mounted last year under her own name that dealt with her “rape narrative” involving a university professor. The exhibit did not mention Mr. Galloway by name, and the woman removed the fact that she had attended UBC from her bio.
“She cleverly doesn’t say ‘I was the complainant,’ but she’s putting it out there. Then she comes to this court and says anonymize me,” argued lawyer Daniel Burnett, representing Mr. Galloway.
Mr. Burnett said the woman “is monetizing this stuff” through sales of the artwork and exhibition catalogues.
Joanna Birenbaum, another lawyer representing M.C., argued the artwork was therapeutic and drew on M.C.’s “own experience to connect to a universal experience.”
Her lawyers revealed that when Mr. Galloway’s lawsuit against her goes to trial, they intend to advance the defence of truth.
“While [Ms. Boyd] did not find on a balance of probabilities that sexual assault had occurred, she did find there was a power imbalance between the applicant and the professor and that he had made inappropriate and unwelcome sexual comments and advances,” Mr. Wotherspoon said. “We say a full Supreme Court trial is necessary to determine the issue of whether in fact there was sexual assault.”
He urged the court to protect the woman’s identity moving forward.
“The prudent thing to do here, where you have disputed versions of allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault, is to let that matter be determined at the end of the day at the trial. ... And until we get there [we should] protect the complainant’s identity,” Mr. Wotherspoon told the court. A trial date is tentatively scheduled for June, 2020.
The judge reserved her decision and declined to order an interim publication ban.