Former petty officer made woman uncomfortable during exam, court martial hears

GATINEAU, Que. – A woman says she felt humiliated when a former military medical technician ordered her to expose her breasts so he could touch them during a physical exam, a court martial heard Thursday.

She says James Wilks, a petty officer second class who is now retired, spent a minute or two touching her breasts before ordering her to pull up her hospital gown and get off the examination table.

The woman, whose identity is protected under a publication ban, choked up several times and dabbed her eyes with tissue during her testimony Thursday on the second day of Wilks’ court martial.

She described how Wilks then told her to bend over and touch her toes while she was wearing only the gown and her underwear.

He ordered her to keep her hands on her toes when she tried to keep her loose-fitting underpants from slipping, she said. Wilks pulled up her underpants and held her gown as she was bent over, the court martial heard.

“I was humiliated,” she said.

She told the court martial Wilks was “very firm” and didn’t give her the impression a breast exam was optional. She described him as “intimidating.”

A female chaperon was in the room when the examination began, but left with the woman’s consent.

Wilks faces 26 sexual assault and breach of trust charges involving 16 women over a six-year span.

The charges allege inappropriate medical exams at Ontario military recruitment sites in Thunder Bay and London from 2003 to 2009.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Earlier Thursday, the court martial heard from another woman who said Wilks made her feel uncomfortable during her medical exams by making comments about her unshaven legs and the size of her hips.

The woman, whose identity is also under a publication ban, said the comments came during two medical exams conducted by Wilks.

“During the first examination, prior to that I didn’t know that I’d be changing into the gown and I didn’t shave my legs the day before and he made one comment saying, ‘Oh, you missed a few spots there’,” she said.

“It made me feel a little uncomfortable. But very, very minor.”

Another comment at a later exam also made the woman feel awkward, she said.

“While he was feeling for abnormalities on my abdomen, he said that I have large hips,” she said.

“And then he said, ‘My mother says that they’re good for something.’ And I was thinking, ‘What are they going to be good for? Giving birth? Why are you telling me this?’ I got feeling uncomfortable as I was on the table.”

She also testified that Wilks first offered to physically examine her breasts during the medical.

When she declined, the court martial heard Wilks told her he would still need to conduct a quick visual inspection of her breasts, to which she consented.

The woman had difficulty remembering some aspects of the two exams she had with Wilks, such as whether she signed a consent form or was aware she had once acted as a chaperon during someone else’s medical exam.

She also said that aside from the comments that made her uncomfortable, Wilks acted professionally during the exams.

The court martial is expected to hear from more women Thursday afternoon.

Wilks also faces separate civil lawsuits that claim the military didn’t act on reports about his alleged conduct.

Three women filed statements of claim with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice alleging that Wilks sexually assaulted them during physical exams for recruits at various National Defence installations in Ontario.

A fourth woman last year filed a similar civil claim against Wilks. It alleges he touched her breasts and pressed his groin against her during a recruitment medical exam.

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