Samantha Geiger has spent most of the past two years looking over her shoulder, living in fear.
Geiger has been a resident of Sooke on southern Vancouver Island since she was a child but says many people in the town turned against her after she reported a man for sexually assaulting her in May 2020.
Benjamin Kenmare was sentenced to six months in jail and 18 months probation in February 2022 for sexually assaulting Geiger, after a court process that took nearly two years.
During the trial process, a publication ban was put on the case. Geiger wasn’t informed of the ban, meaning if anybody searched the case details or Kenmare’s name on the province’s Court Services Online database, it would return no results.
For those who were out to discredit Geiger, this poured gasoline on the fire. Geiger says the publication ban on her case prevented her from defending herself and fuelled harassment and abuse she’s received over the past two years.
Since then, Geiger says she’s been harassed in the street, had her house broken into multiple times, and, on one occasion, was nearly run down by someone who tried to hit Geiger with their car.
“If I never would have had a publication ban, he would have never been able to create all of these lies about me,” Geiger said. “I would have been able to stand up for myself and I would have been able to not let it get this far where the community started attacking me.”
She looked at moving but couldn’t afford the skyrocketing real estate prices and didn’t want to uproot her daughter’s life or move away from her family in Sooke.
Geiger says she only became aware of the publication ban, which is requested by Crown counsel and common on sexual assault cases, in September 2021 after the judge’s decision trial in August.
Around this time, Geiger connected on a survivor’s forum with Kelly Favro, a Victoria woman who had successfully lifted her own unwanted publication ban.
Ultimately, Geiger would have to hire her own lawyer via legal aid to lift the publication ban, “fighting relentlessly” until it was successfully lifted in October of this year. The process took months and was slowed at one point to notify Kenmare.
“It was like I needed permission from my rapist to talk about this and lift it, which isn’t okay… it was meant to protect me and all it did was protect him.”
Since then, she said the community is slowly coming around and the harassment has declined significantly, although her house was broken into as recently as two weeks ago.
Geiger has reported these incidents to the police but has been told there’s not enough evidence to investigate. She’s been urged to keep reporting and was told police have started a file.
“They’ve told me to never go anywhere alone, lock my doors, barricade the doors that I’m not using, and it’s exhausting,” she said.
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Alex Berube did not confirm whether a police file has been started, saying “RCMP typically does not confirm or deny investigations unless there is a public safety concern or an operational need for it.”
Since her publication ban was lifted, Geiger has sought to share her experience, joining with other survivors as part of a group that started a petition to Parliament, calling for changes in how victims are informed and given choice about publication bans on their cases. Petition e-4192 currently has more than 1,000 signatures and members from the same group of survivors presented to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, leading up to a report released on Dec. 8.
The committee made two recommendations: “that section 486.4 of the Criminal Code be amended so that victims must be informed before a publication ban is imposed and given the opportunity to opt-out at any time in the process,” and “recognizing the importance of the principle of prosecutorial independence, training be given to Crown prosecutors across the country with regard to the needs of victims concerning publication bans.”
“I think having the petition could change everything, I just really hope this makes it so no other victim has to go through what I have, and what other survivors have.”