"She was like 12 literally a couple of months ago, playing with her Littlest Pet Shops, and now she's having sex," confides a Vernon mother who believes her now-teenage daughter was "raped" — and the mother alleges her daughter is not the only victim.
"It happened to my daughter's friend, too," says the mother, whose name we are withholding to protect the children involved.
The mom is speaking out about what she's worried is a "trend" across high schools in the city.
"Boys are preying on them by making them feel like, 'Oh I love you,' and saying 'You're my best friend.' ...The girls aren't used to that. The girls think, 'Oh my gosh, an older boy is paying attention to me, I must be pretty,' and that's how they are grooming them," the mother claims.
School District 22 acknowledges the incidents.
"In School District 22, we take seriously providing safety for all students and we are attending to this as we speak," Supt. Christine Perkins said in an email.
"These events took place away from school grounds."
The mother says her high school hopes for her daughter to experience "drama and all the fun things" quickly faded after witnessing the girl's drastic transformation to "fit in with these older kids." The mom says her daughter began vaping and using drugs within the first month of attending high school.
"The fact she is 13 and the boy is almost 17 legally makes it rape," says the mother, who is pursuing legal action.
Perkins encourages parents and families to speak with Vernon's Oak Centre for children and youth who have experienced abuse or sexual assault regarding victim assistance and to call RCMP.
Although the Oak Centre can't speak to individual cases, co-executive director of programs Micki Materi says "there is a program called Violence is Preventable or VIP, which provides healthy relationship and consent-based education programming in the schools."
The programming is available to elementary and secondary schools.
Materi adds: "We are working with the school district to promote that all students have access to this psycho-educational and prevention programming."
Youth who have experienced sexual assault or other violence are encouraged to reach out to Oak Centre for guidance and support at 778-475-2920.
Along with better sex education in schools, the mother also believes reintroducing junior high schools would go a long way to protect young girls from being "preyed upon" by older boys.
The case involving two minors is under investigation.
The age of consent to sexual activity is 16.
In some cases, the age of consent is higher (for example, when there is a relationship of trust, authority or dependency).
"Any sexual offences reported to police are treated seriously and each are investigated to the fullest extent," Vernon RCMP spokesperson Const. Chris Terleski said in an email.