A woman who says she was sexually assaulted by former Vancouver Canuck Jake Virtanen in 2017 testified Monday (July 18) that she told him multiple times she didn’t want to have sex with him, but he forced himself on her.
The woman, whose name is protected by a publication ban, was testifying on the first day of Virtanen’s jury trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
Virtanen, 25, of Abbotsford was charged in January of this year with one count of sexual assault in relation to the alleged incident on Sept. 26, 2017.
The complainant told the court that she and Virtanen met at a bar during the Calgary Stampede in July 2017, when she was 18.
She said the two continued to message back and forth – “getting to know each other” – and they agreed to meet up when she came to Vancouver in September 2017 to visit friends and family.
The woman said Virtanen wanted to get together with her on the evening she arrived, but she thought it was too late and suggested they meet in the daytime.
“I was worried that if it was late at night, I might be put into a sexual situation,” she told the court.
She said Virtanen insisted they get together, and she agreed he could pick her up. She thought they would go for a drive or a walk, she said.
Instead, the woman said Virtanen drove her to the Westin Bayshore hotel, where he was staying at the time.
“I felt sick and I had kind of this sinking feeling in my stomach because it was the exact situation I didn’t want to be in,” she said.
But the woman said she felt she would be able to get out of any situation that she didn’t want to be in, and she followed Virtanen up to his room.
Once there, she went out on the balcony to take in the view. She said Virtanen came up to her, hugged her from behind and ran his hands down her body.
“I pushed his hands down, and turned away and walked into the room away from him,” she said.
The woman said the two of them then sat on the bed and watched Netflix for a bit. She said when Virtanen kissed her, she initially kissed back but on his follow-up attempts, she said she would pull away, “trying to de-escalate things.”
She said Virtanen then tried to pull off her shirt.
“I put my hands over his shirt, and that that was the first time I told him I didn’t want to have sex with him.”
The woman said Virtanen agreed that they didn’t have to go further, but then, over the course of several minutes, he took off her shirt, unhooked her bra and pulled off her pants.
She said, between each of these actions, she told him she didn’t want to have sex and he continued to reassure her that they wouldn’t.
The complainant said she believed and trusted him and it seemed that he “genuinely looked like he was absorbing it and that it wasn’t going to happen.”
The woman said Virtanen then moved on top of her, and she tried to push him back with her hands but he was “very forceful.”
At that point, she said she realized “that I probably wasn’t getting out of it.”
“I was saying, “No! No! I said no!’ I just kept saying no and that I didn’t want to,” she said in tears. “I basically just stared at the ceiling until it was done.”
The complainant said she then went to the bathroom and cried. She said she stayed the night with Virtanen because she didn’t know what else to do.
“I didn’t know where I was. I was 18. I’m from a small town. I didn’t even think cabs were operating (at that time of night). I’ve been to Vancouver a handful of times … I viewed him as my only ride home,” she said.
She said, the next morning, Virtanen gave her money to take a cab back to her friend’s place, where she was staying.
She said she felt “very violated and gross and confused, distraught” about the previous night.
The woman said she didn’t come forward until four years later, when she posted her story anonymously – and did not name Virtanen – on a social media group for survivors of sexual assault in April 2021.
She said she waited that long because it took time for her to process what had happened.
“I was confused. I knew what he did wasn’t OK … but all these years I went back and forth with whether there is more I could have done.”
The woman said posting on the social media group gave her the reassurance she needed, and she felt comfortable being able to post anonymously.
She was soon referred to a reporter to share her story (also anonymously) and then approached police and later a lawyer, resulting in a civil case being filed, which was followed by criminal charges.
“Coming forward, money was the last thing on my mind … I just wanted my story out there. I wanted him to be held accountable. I wanted him to be charged,” she said.
The complainant said that coming forward lifted a weight off her shoulders: “It made me realize that it’s not my fault and what he did genuinely wasn’t OK.”
The woman takes the stand again Tuesday (July 19), including for cross exam by Virtanen’s lawyer.
The trial is scheduled to last seven days.
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