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Airdrie woman fears to travel after she says she was sexually assaulted at Punta Cana resort
Published Thursday, January 10, 2019 8:17PM MST
Last Updated Thursday, January 10, 2019 8:35PM MST
An Airdrie woman claims she was sexually assaulted by two staff members at a resort in the Dominican Republic late last year, but that isn’t the only horror that she and her family had to experience during the incident.
The woman, whose identity is being withheld to protect her privacy, says she was attending a destination wedding with her family at the Barcelo Bavaro Palace in Punta Cana on November 25.
The second night that she was there, she was drinking with friends and family when she needed help getting back to her room.
She asked a security guard to help her find it in the large resort and the next thing she knew, she says was being sexually assaulted by him and another uniformed staff member.
“I was really helpless and I couldn’t do anything,” she tells CTV.
When she woke up afterwards, the two men were gone.
“I remember just waking up Sunday morning in the bed and I was kind of in shock already. I tried to recollect did this really happen?”
She went to her family for help, the head of security at Bavaro, who took her to file a police report and aid with an investigation. She even testified in court.
But that’s where the victim and her family said the aid stopped coming from the hotel administration.
“Because they caught the guys, they thought I would feel better. But, I don’t; not at all,” she says. “This situation is so life changing that I am thinking about the future. Did I catch something? Am I pregnant? Am I going to live forever with something that I might have caught? This is not something that can be swept away. To me, they think that just getting the guys in jail is enough justice but to me, it’s not.”
The victim’s uncle says she had been taken to the resort’s security office and handed an offer to reimburse the money spent on her stay, but only if she signed a document to absolve Bavaro of all responsibility in the incident. The document would also require her to keep quiet about what happened.
Her uncle says that the attempt destroyed every bit of trust he had with the organization.
“If you’re not guilty of something, why are you making us sign this piece of paper? That changed my mind. Were they there just to be nice or were they there just to get away from all of this and push us away? I hope that people don’t do this and just sign pieces of paper.”
Calgary lawyer Raj Sharma says unfortunately there is little recourse for Canadians who are allegedly victimized when they are travelling abroad.
“There’s been complaints that victims don’t have enough rights in Canada, so you can only imagine what those rights could be in various countries around the world.”
He adds it’s especially difficult when the incident involves sexual assault.
“I think it’s difficult for women in particular to come forward after a sexual assault in the ‘best of circumstances’: in Canada, where they have family resources, where they have a court system, a prosecutorial system and police. I can only imagine the difficulty that this young woman would feel in a foreign country.”
Sharma calls the hotel’s attempt to get the victim to sign off on a release and to offer financial compensation for 'such a violation of your body integrity' ‘unconscionable’. "If it wasn’t tragic, it would be ludicrous. It’s almost offensive just to read it.”
Global Affairs Canada says it’s aware of the incident and in an email to the woman states that the suspects have been imprisoned and are awaiting trial, expected to take place in three months.
In response to requests for comment and specific questions from CTV Calgary, the hotel issued the following statement:
“We are not able to provide answers to queries about specific guests; we take guest safety and privacy seriously, and do not comment publicly about individual visitors.”
The victim says the whole incident has changed her life permanently.
“It ruined me travelling. I love travelling, my family travels all the time,” she said. “I’m scared and I’m traumatized. I have to live with this for the rest of my life.”
The family is now looking for a lawyer to pursue a civil lawsuit against the hotel.
With files from CTV's Kathy Le