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Trial told of woman's 'intense fear' alone in barracks with dozens of men


HALIFAX — The trial of a British sailor accused in a gang rape at a Halifax-area military base continues Tuesday, after testimony from a young woman who described a harrowing scene of being virtually alone in barracks with dozens of men.

She told Nova Scotia Supreme Court last week she felt "intense fear" as she frantically knocked on doors, calling out the name of a friend she had become separated from in the barracks at 12 Wing Shearwater.

The woman said that's when she realized she was effectively by herself in a building full of men.

She came upon a raucous scene: hockey players scattered throughout a room, one naked lying face down on a bed.

The woman said she felt threatened, and had never experienced the "boys will be boys" culture in the military.

"Nothing seemed out of place to the hockey team. They seemed like this is how they would normally spend a Thursday. They were comfortable. They were cheering at the player who was face down as if this is common practice," she testified during her five days on the witness stand.

Darren Smalley, 38, is charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm and participating in a sexual assault involving one or more people in April 2015 in a case that once involved four accused.

The trial heard from six Crown witnesses in the first two full weeks of testimony, including the complainant in the case, whose identity is protected by a publication ban.

She told the court she was invited by her friend on a double date on the evening of April 9, 2015, after she met a British sailor on the dating app Tinder.

The Royal Navy sailors were in Halifax for a naval hockey tournament, so the two women went to watch a game. Afterwards, they returned to the barracks where the sailors were staying.

The complainant testified that she became separated from her friend a few times that evening. She said despite feeling uncomfortable, she didn't want to abandon her friend, and so she decided to stay the night.

She became emotional as Smalley's lawyer, Ian Hutchison, questioned her decision to sleep on a bed next to a sailor in a room where three other men were also sleeping.

He appeared to suggest she could have slept in the hallway, or somewhere else in the barracks.

"You're not going to feel safe no matter what you do. You're surrounded by a group of men. You're terrified. You're doing everything you can to make the best of an absolutely crappy situation," said the woman.

"There's dudes no matter where you go. There is not going to be anyone you know no matter where you go ... If you're in a barrack room with four men, stupid me thought I had some sense of security."

She said she gave the sailor next to her a goodnight kiss, as if to say "thank you'' for letting her sleep there. When she awoke, at least three men were performing sex acts on her, she said.

"I could see outlines or shadows of people,'' she said, reiterating throughout her testimony that she never consented to sexual activity with anyone. "I heard voices laughing.''

The woman said she went in and out of consciousness three times.

She also testified that during a meeting with her psychologist in March 2016, she remembered smiling during the alleged incident.

"I did feel a lot of guilt remembering that that had happened,'' the woman said, adding that she didn't know how to perceive the "new memory."

Eventually, her friend appeared in the doorway and ran to her side. They left the barracks shortly after.

The next morning, she went to her family doctor and late that evening to the hospital.

The sexual assault nurse who examined her said she found a number of bruises and injuries.

Smalley's DNA profile was found on the complainant's underwear, a DNA specialist testified last week.

Crown lawyer Eric Taylor said on Friday that military police Sgt. Tyler Bruce-Hayes, who testified earlier in the trial, is expected to take the stand again when the trial resumes on Tuesday.

Bruce-Hayes has yet to be cross-examined by the defence because of delays at the outset of the trial due to the hospitalization of a co-accused, British sailor Simon Radford, for a serious infection.

The Crown has stayed charges against Radford, but they can be reinstituted within a year.

Charges against two other sailors were dropped.

Follow (at)AlyThomson on Twitter.

Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press

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