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complainant testifies on 3rd day of former Regina doctor’s sexual assault trial

The charges against former gastroenterologist Sylvester Ukabam, 76, stem from offences that allegedly occurred between December 2010 and April 2017.  (CBC  - image credit)

The charges against former gastroenterologist Sylvester Ukabam, 76, stem from offences that allegedly occurred between December 2010 and April 2017. (CBC – image credit)

WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing

The trial for a former doctor charged with seven counts of sexual assault entered its third day on Wednesday at Queen’s Bench in Regina.

The charges against former gastroenterologist Sylvestre Ukabam, 76, stem from offences that allegedly occurred between December 2010 and April 2017. A publication ban prohibits any of the five complainants from being named.

Ukabam has pleaded not guilty to all seven charges.

The third complainant was a 47-year-old woman from Regina and a long-time patient of Ukabam’s. She suffers from Crohn’s and colitis, among other medical issues. She said that on April 24, 2017, Ukabam sexually assaulted her at his downtown Regina clinic.

The witness said that up until that incident, she had no reason not to trust the former doctor.

The incident

On April 24, 2017, the complainant went to Ukabam’s office for a follow-up appointment concerning some lab results. She said she had no medical issues that day or complaints.

Even so, she said Ukabam told her to go to the exam room and remove her clothes and put on a gown. She left on her bra and underwear and put on the gown.

“I just trusted in my doctor,” she said.

She said Ukabam then told her she needed to take off her bra and underwear and tie the gown in the front, rather than the back. She said he did not tell her why. She did so, but said the gown’s string tore. She said she held the gown together with her hands, but felt exposed because it was a small gown.

The complainant said she was not offered a sheet, nor did she ask for one.

Ukabam then pressed his fingers and hands on her abdomen, and stopped above her pubic bone, according to the witness. She said he didn’t ask to do so, nor did he tell her what he was doing. She said he then used a stethoscope to listen to her chest after asking her to take off the gown. He then pushed on her back while she was exposed, she said.

“He asked me if I would like him to check down there. Right away I said, ‘No, no I’m good.'”

The complainant said Ukabam then grabbed a chair and propped it against the door handle to the exam room.

“I started panicking. I remember my chest getting tight. Questioning, what is he dong?” said the witness.

“He said to me, ‘These aren’t things I like to do.’ I thought, ‘What does he mean by that?'”

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LinkedIn

The complainant said that Ukabam then put gloves on and lubricated his fingers.

“He walked over. He just quickly spread my legs and stuck his finger in my vagina and pressed up, like he was looking for my g-spot, and said ‘does it hurt?'” the complainant said.

“I was in shock, I was traumatised, I was emotional, I realized what just happened to me. I was violated.”

The complainant said that after it was over, she held her gown together with her hands. Ukabam then told her she could get dressed, she said. Ukabam left the room and she put on her clothes quickly.

The witness said Ukabam had never touched her vagina during any physical procedures prior to April 24, 2017.

Documenting the incident

The complainant said that after that, back in his office, Ukabam told her, “What are we going to do with you?”

She left the building after that.

“I got into my vehicle and I just started crying hysterically. I just sat there and realized I was just sexually assaulted by my doctor.”

The complainant said she immediately called a friend and told her what had happened. The friend told her to drive straight home, and that she would meet her there.

“I knew that I needed to start documenting exactly what happened right away,” the complainant said.

Mickey Djuric/The Canadian Press

Mickey Djuric/The Canadian Press

The witness said she went home and met her friend, who helped her document everything she remembers happening. In May 2017, the complainant reported the incident to the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons, and then to the police.

When asked how the alleged assault has affected her life, the complainant said it’s affected her ability to trust or to go into an exam room with a male, and her relationships.

The complainant said she is often triggered by the trauma to this day.

Cross-examination

During cross-examination, Ukabam’s lawyer Aaron Fox asked the complainant about her medical history, as well as physical examinations she had had both with Ukabam and other doctors.

He questioned her about what she told Ukabam about her medical concerns on April 24, 2017. He also questioned the witness about previous statements she made, appointments and communications with other doctors, and dates of appointments.

The defence also questioned the complainant’s recollection of the size of the gown she wore during the alleged incident. The defence asked if any of the medications she was taking might have affected her ability to recall that day. She said no.

After three hours of cross-examination, Fox questioned the complainant’s previous statements on the alleged assault. He asked if she had crafted answers to make her case again Ukabam look better. She denied doing so.

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