December 5th, 2020

Victim testifies at sexual assault trial

By Shurtz, Delon on October 28, 2020.

Delon Shurtz

lethbridge herald

A 36-year-old woman who says a massage therapist sexually assaulted her during a session in November 2018, struggled – and often failed – to control her emotions as she testified Tuesday during the accused’s trial in Lethbridge Court of Queen’s Bench.

The complainant, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, testified she had been offered by her massage clinic a free session from a registered massage therapist who was new to the city. Almost from the beginning she began to feel uncomfortable because of his persistent and probing questions about where she worked, but her discomfort steadily grew as he massaged and began touching the more private parts of her body while she lay facedown on the table.

“I was in shock and I was too scared to say anything,” the woman told court on day one of the two-day trial for Cyprien Mudenge.

Mudenge, she testified, began massaging her right ankle and slowly moved up her leg. As he reached her buttocks he folded the sheet covering her onto her left side, exposing her underwear, and began massaging her inner thigh. She pointed out her buttocks were always covered by the sheet during previous massages, and other therapists massaged on top of the sheet.

As he massaged her inner thigh, he continued to move upward until he rubbed her vagina over her underwear. She didn’t say anything, however, even after he lifted the right side of her underwear and began to circle her rectum with his thumb.

Although the woman said she was too scared to say anything, she testified she also wanted to make sure she had actually been assaulted. She didn’t want to accuse him if he accidentally touched her inappropriately or simply slipped. However, she became certain shortly afterward when he massaged her left leg and fully exposed her left buttock and touched her vagina under her underwear.

The assault continued when she moved onto her back and Mudenge massaged her chest, and afterward, with her hips fully exposed, touched her even more inappropriately, she told court.

“Then I told him to please stop.”

She testified she told Mudenge she felt he was inappropriately touching her and she felt violated.

“I just wanted to get dressed as quickly as I could and just go.”

On her way out she told another massage therapist she had been assaulted, and after telling her boyfriend, she called the police.

During cross examination by defence lawyer Greg White, the woman admitted the order of events as she related them might not be completely accurate, but she remembers each incident of inappropriate touching. White also pointed out inconsistencies between her statements to police and her evidence given at a preliminary hearing last year, and even in some of her testimony Tuesday in court. He pointed out she never told police during her interview that Mudenge had pulled her underwear over so he could touch her.

“Not in this statement, no,” she admitted.

White offered a different version of events and suggested Mudenge never exposed the woman’s buttocks but always kept them covered with a sheet. And when he massaged her glutes, it was through the sheet, not under it.

White also reminded the woman that she had requested Mudenge use more pressure on the piriformis muscle that is located deep in the buttock, because that muscle often gets tight from all the walking she does as a waitress. White said Mudenge told her that particular massage is more effective if done “skin to skin,” and she gave her consent. White also suggested she also allowed Mudenge when he asked to expose half of her glute so he could better reach the muscle.

The complainant disagreed with Mudenge’s version of events, however, including his assertion that at one point the sheet covering her hips accidentally fell toward her crotch, exposing her right hip.

The Crown is expected to conclude its case today.

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