Former military officer says she was sexually assaulted by military physician
Published Wednesday, July 12, 2017 11:17PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 13, 2017 8:40PM EDT
A former Canadian Forces officer is frustrated with delays in the military justice system after she alleges she was sexually and physically assaulted by a military doctor. Twenty-one months after the allegations were brought forward, the physician continues to work within the military and the case still hasn’t reached trial.
The accuser, whom CTV News has agreed to not identify, says she was sexually assaulted after a work related event at a hotel in February 2015 by a Canadian Forces Captain who is a practising military physician. The alleged victim says the doctor harassed her for weeks after and physically assaulted her.
She is now speaking out over frustration with the military justice system and personal concerns about the doctor’s practice at a Manitoba military base.
“It’s changed everything,” the woman told CTV News’ Mercedes Stephenson, fighting back tears. “It’s been difficult to trust people and to be close to people as well. If you cannot trust someone like that -- a doctor -- who can you trust?”
She says that the initial incident occurred after Captain Steven James Nordstrom, a colleague of hers, followed her back to her hotel room, attacked her from behind and aggressively forced himself on her.
Nordstrom has not responded to CTV’s request for comment.
“I felt extremely powerless,” the woman told CTV News. “I was actually thinking that I was going to die. It was the most scary thought.”
She has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and struggled with depression for more than a year.
Nordstrom was arrested by Canadian Forces National Investigation Service officers in January 2016 and later released with conditions. He was charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of assault on July 20, 2016.
But little has happened since then. The case still does not have a date set for Nordstrom’s court martial.
In a statement to CTV News, the Department of National Defence said CAF is committed to addressing and eliminating sexual misconduct within the Forces, in addition to making sure victims are supported and perpetrators face action.
It added, “Under Canadian law, Captain Nordstrom remains innocent until proven guilty.”
The statement also went on to say, “the CDS has been clear that members found guilty of sexual misconduct will be subject to an administrative review that will evaluate and recommend additional administrative actions, up to and including release from the Armed Forces.”
Restrictions on doctor’s practice
Meanwhile, Nordstrom continues to serve as a military physician at CFB Shilo in Manitoba.
Restrictions have been placed on his practice. According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Manitoba, a female attendant must be present at all times when Nordstrom examines or meets with any female patient.
The college would not confirm when the restrictions were put in place or why, and said Nordstrom must have a sign displayed in his office with the restrictions.
The complainant says she understands the importance of due process, but she is worried about his access to patients.
“I can’t imagine that someone like that would be alone with a female patient in their office,” she said.
The military says it has taken the restrictions a step further and that Nordstrom can only see male patients.
But the alleged victim’s lawyer says the accused shouldn’t be allowed to practice medicine at all.
“The proper reflex on the part of the military should have been to suspend this individual, suspend him from active practice and seeing patients,” said lawyer Michel Drapeau.
“Putting a restriction on the College of Physician web page does not publicize the event and does not make it available to people on the base who may be requiring professional services from this particular doctor.”
Accused broke bail condition, given $500 fine
The ordeal has left the accuser feeling that she has been kept in the dark. She says the military has done little to provide her with basic information about the case, and it wasn’t until she hired a lawyer that she learned several key facts.
“I had actually asked them to provide me with all the information that I was allowed to get, because information is power and when something like this happens to you, you need to gain your power back,” she said. “I was expecting to know about what was going on, and it was very little that was explained to me.”
The alleged victim is also upset with the way the military handled Nordstrom when he breached one of his bail conditions banning him from consuming alcohol.
He was given a $500 fine after a summary trial was conducted by his commanding officer.
Drapeau called the punishment “a slap on the wrist” and “very, very strange.”
“A competent court, a criminal court, should have dealt with that.”
The complainant says the $500 punishment is hardly enough to dissuade someone from breaking other conditions.
“That has made me feel unimportant in some ways and unsafe as well,” she said. “What’s preventing him from breaching the other conditions, like not to contact me or come close to me?”
Accuser: ‘You can’t erase it’
Asked what she would say to the alleged attacker, the woman said she would want to know why he never apologized.
“I would want to know how he can live with what he did to me and how he can just pretend that nothing had happened,” she said. “How can you live with yourself?”
The accuser says she has made personal progress over the last few years, but that the damage of the alleged sexual assault “never really goes away.”
“It’s something that’s happened and you can’t erase it. It’s there forever.”
Moving forward, she says she’d like to see the military focus on providing more supports to help victims of sexual assault feel comfortable bringing accusations to light.
“If (victims) feel that they have the support of their chain of command, there’s people behind them, then they’re going to catch more people. It’s going to be easier to come forward.”
With a report from CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson in Ottawa