Edmonton children come forward about alleged sexual assault at Terwillegar pool

A family is speaking out after their three children all said they were sexually assaulted at the Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre pool in southwest Edmonton. Morgan Black reports.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The family has not been identified to protect the identity of the children involved.

An Edmonton family is speaking out after their three children all said they were sexually assaulted at the Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre pool Sunday evening.

One woman said the kids — two of her young daughters, and two of her granddaughters — were asking to go to the pool, so she took them to their regular spot — the Terwillegar pool in southwest Edmonton — where they’ve been going since it first opened.

She said she was in the lazy river watching the kids play when her granddaughter —the youngest of the four girls — came up, initially not saying anything but looking concerned.

The grandmother noticed a man circling them, watching her granddaughter, and she asked again what was wrong. Her granddaughter started crying and said the man hurt her, saying he touched her six times under the water.

Her first instinct was to tell the lifeguard, so she did. The lifeguards closed down the pool and sent everyone home, keeping the family behind for questioning, she said.

“She’s telling me this for a reason, so I had to step up,” said the grandmother, who also called the police.

The Edmonton Police Service confirmed to Global News that there is an open investigation into the case.

As they waited outside the pool, she said the man was trying to intimidate her granddaughter by walking past her and giving her “the evil eye.”

“I told her: ‘You’re with me. You’re safe.’ And as soon as I said that she got up — she didn’t let him intimidate her at all,” she said.

“I told her: ‘You belong here just as much as anybody.’”

Emmy Steubing, CEO of Zebra Child and Youth Advocacy Centre, said it’s essential for adults to listen and take reports seriously when a child comes forward.

“You don’t need to be an investigator. It’s not up to you to ask for all the details.

“But, if a child does share that something has happened to them, just thank them for their bravery in disclosing to you to let them know that they’re safe — and assure them that they’re safe — and look after reporting it and make sure investigators know the details,” she said.

Later that night, the grandmother said her other granddaughter and one of her daughters also told her the man “did things to them in the pool too.” The fourth child was not involved.

The recreation centre informed her that the man had been banned from the pool.

The City of Edmonton confirmed the ban, and told Global News in a statement that video footage has been reviewed and the city is working with police on the investigation.

Still, the girls were nervous to go back to the pool in case he was there, the grandmother said.

“I know they’re feeling scared and they’re feeling worried,” she said. “They wanted other children to be aware of what’s out there and what’s happening.

“I know for certain they think of the world differently after that. They don’t feel so safe and secure and it really breaks my heart to see kids having to go through that.”

One thing adults should not do is promise any outcome to the child, Steubing said, such as saying the person will be put in jail.

“We just don’t know what the journey will be,” she said.

She added that adults have a duty to report any suspicious behaviour they may see in a public space, and also if they notice changes in their child’s behaviour.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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