Captain Donna Riguidel of 3rd Canadian division support base Edmonton was 17 when she had her first introduction to sexual misconduct in the army.
Riguidel told 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen it was on the way back to a course party with two of her instructors during her first month with the army, when one of them attempted to order her to give him oral sex.
“What I remember most about that experience though is having a moment of panic where I tried to figure out a way to talk myself out of it without offending him. Which now looking back as a more mature me I’m horrified by, but at the time I so didn’t want to jeopardize everything that I’d worked so hard for, and it was just in that moment you actually sort of think to yourself, well would really be a big deal if?”
She said she didn’t comply with the order and never reported it and that instructor is still in the military and never received any punishment or reprimand for the incident.
Riguidel said she actually left the military in 1997 after four years and when she went back, found out she was being called a “course mattress”, and said that kind of language is what perpetuates the idea that it’s ok for people to label each other with derogatory terms.
“And it also becomes that whole, if you did have something happen to you that you wanted to now report, now your whole credibility is taken into question. Well you know we’ve heard things about you and that sort of thing, so it becomes this sort of you’re damned if you do damned if you don’t.”
Riguidel recounted of the time when her and a fellow female solider caught a male soldier masturbating while watching them change in a gym locker room.
She said after the incident the two returned to their group and they had to report what had happened to their chain of command and she said it gave her a firsthand look at the gaps in the system.
“I would never blame the military for what happened in that gym change room, there’s sexual predators in our society we can run into them anywhere, but I definitely hold the military accountable for how they treated me after the fact and sort of how things rolled out and that we need to get better at.”
Riguidel said the man was caught and charged in a military court and released from the military and has since been re-arrested for two separate incidents involving sexual misconduct.
The reason she said she can speak so freely about these incidents is because of how supportive her command team is.
“And we all agree that it’s very important that really the only way to sort of root out the problem is be honest about the problem. I work for an amazing organization, I’m very proud to wear this uniform and we’re held to a very high standard and this is one place where I want to make sure that we rise to that standard and make sure we’re achieving it.”
Riguidel was speaking about her experience with sexual misconduct in the military as a way to promote its new initiative called Operation Honour, a mission named by the Chief of Defence Staff to stop harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Canadian Armed Forces.