Defense in sexual assault trial suggests McMaster University student tried to ‘reconstruct’ past events during cross-examination

The defense attorney suggested during the trial on Tuesday that a McMaster University student was “trying to piece together” past events in order to justify what she wrote in text messages to her former professor.

This was the second day of cross-examination centering on a series of text messages between the complainant and Professor McMaster Scott Watter, who she claims assaulted her on several occasions over a period of several months in 2017.

Watter, 48, is charged with sexual assault and sexual assault causing bodily harm. He pleaded not guilty.

Scott Watter is charged with sexual assault and sexual assault causing bodily harm; He pleaded not guilty.McMaster University

The trial reserved for the judges began on May 17.

The complainant, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior (PNB), cannot be identified due to a publication ban.

During the trial, which resumed Tuesday after being adjourned for several weeks, defense attorney Jeffrey Manishen read days of text messages from April and May 2017, following the first alleged assault, a kiss not wanted on the piano bench in Watter and his wife’s basement. .

The student alleges that on different occasions he held her down, beat her, penetrated her anus with his fingers and twisted her nipples until they bled. She previously testified that she did not consent to any of these incidents.

Manishen said multiple text messages appeared to show that Watter and the student shared similar views on their relationship and that they had both consented to intimate activities, including BDSM sex practices.

During an exchange on April 23, Watter and the student exchange a message about the previous night, which they spent together at the professor’s house: “You left bite marks on my legs,” the student wrote. . And, a few minutes later: “I’m not mad, it’s just funny.”

Watter said he would be more careful in the future and asked her how she felt about the progress of their relationship. She suggests they “cut this thing down” until the fall. The texts show the two had discussed moving forward with their relationship — romantic, Manishen suggested — in September, once another student Watter was involved with moved to another city.

What Manishen describes as “teasing” continues the next day: “I can’t promise you’ll behave well now that you’ve had a taste,” the student wrote.

In the exchange, the two agreed that the next time they ran into each other wasn’t awkward.

“You weren’t uncomfortable, were you,” Manishen asks.

The complainant admits that she does not come across as “extremely uncomfortable” in the texts. She also said on several occasions that she did not remember the details of those conversations.

“Maybe I was trying to convince myself that things weren’t awkward,” she said. She has previously said that she sometimes uses humor as a coping mechanism.

“Or maybe you didn’t feel uncomfortable, but today you’re trying to justify what you wrote,” Manishen retorts.

The complainant disagreed. “It’s a common pattern I engage in when I feel uncomfortable.”

The student said Tuesday that she may have consented at times and was interested in a non-platonic relationship with Watter. But she also said she was “very, very mentally ill” and “had a serious drinking problem” at the time.

Her former teacher, whom she testified was a friend and confidant, knew she had mental health issues. He was in a position of authority and held a “degree of power over her,” she said. “It was a very confusing time,” she said.

The trial resumes Thursday.

If you are a survivor of sexual violence and need support, please see the resources below:

SACHA Sexual Assault Center Hamilton and Area: 24 hour helpline 905-525-4162; www.sacha.ca.

McMaster University Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office: [email protected]; svpro.mcmaster.ca.

McMaster Students’ Union Women and Gender Equity Network (WGEN): [email protected]; msumcmaster.ca/service/wgen.

Elna M. Lemons