The identities of the individuals sexually assaulted have been kept anonymous at their request. The names used for these individuals are merely for clarity purposes and are not the individuals’ actual names.
“I felt very disgusting, very dirty, and was ashamed of what happened to me,” said Jane, an 18-year-old Dawson student, about being sexually assaulted. “It really made me feel bad about myself.”
Jane is one of the several women who, in the past couple weeks, were sexually assaulted in Dawson elevators, more specifically the ones in-between the A and B wings.
News about these incidents initially surfaced on Spotted: Dawson College, the anonymous Facebook forum, when a student shared her experience in a post. She revealed that the incident involved an individual pressing against her and placing his arm in between her breasts. She reported that when moving back to distance herself from him, he would move back as well until she was against the elevator wall with him against her. Her friend, who was with her at the time, told her to push him, but she “was just frozen.”
“I [looked] at him and he [smiled] at me,” recounted the anonymous student. “I did not know what to do. I took my friend’s hand and [we] got out the elevator. Since then, I always see him, and I am scared.”
Since its publication on January 30, the post received much attention and many reactions from numerous people. This has led other students – Jane being one of them – to also come forward on Spotted with their experiences, marking a new wave of testimonies, all posted on February 7, about similar incidents happening in the same elevators.
“At first, I didn’t want to tell anybody,” said Jane. “I didn’t want people associating me to [what happened to me], but I wrote to Spotted: Dawson College because I wanted to share my story [to help] anybody who experienced it [to encourage them to] come out.”
Rachel, another student who shared her sexual assault experience following the initial online post, explained that she came forward “because [she] found out that [she] was not the only victim, and that the [perpetrator] probably wouldn’t stop.”
What has the school done about the situation?
College administration saw the initial post on Spotted: Dawson College, but the incident was never reported to Student Services or Security, according to Donna Varrica, Dawson’s Communications Coordinator.
It was not until a week later, when the new testimonies were posted, that the school and Spotted: Dawson College got in contact to release a message online:
It is believed among some of the victims that the incidents were perpetrated by the same individual.
“When I got home, I got a message from my friend saying ‘this happened to me [too], this is what he looks like.’ I realized then that it was him [that assaulted me]” explained Jane.
The same day Dawson posted their online warning, a student, who was also previously assaulted by the perpetrator, witnessed the incident happening to another student and was able to capture him on camera.
“[The student] was able to capture a video that showed him quite clearly,” explained Varrica. “We took that information and I wrote a very detailed report for [Dawson] security to follow up on.”
With six official reports – including the video, Jane’s testimony and security camera footage — Dawson confirmed that the recent sexual assault cases were carried out by a single individual who was found.
The perpetrator, who has been identified as a Dawson student, is currently suspended. He is also not permitted to come to school and has an expulsion recommendation pending.
“It was just scary seeing how many individuals he had done it to in such a short amount of time,” affirmed Jane. “It was done to me and two other people I was close to.”
“There have been incidents in the past that involved a girlfriend and a boyfriend, people that knew each other,” said Varrica. “But as far as [the recent incidents], who knows. [In the past], you might have been silent because you thought it was your fault, because you thought no one would believe you or because you just wanted to brush it off. Now, we speak up. Social media allows that, and that’s what happened with these women [who have recently come forward].”
Although Varrica recognized the courage the women had to come forward on Spotted: Dawson College, she couldn’t stress the importance of reporting an incident to the school or security enough.
“[People who are subjects to or witnesses of these events] have to file a report and tell someone of authority so we can have the information we need to act and so we have the moral obligation to continue [investigating],” said Varrica.
Is this the last we will hear of sexual assaults at Dawson?
“Of course, there are going to be other cases like this because it’s always been happening,” pointed out Jane. “However, it’s more a question of being proactive about it, not [being] afraid to tell the person to move over or ‘you’re invading my privacy,’ and of society being able to help make the situation better.”
With different campaigns over the years such as It Happens Here and the Safer Space Initiative, Varrica believes that for Dawson, “it starts with education.” She believes that the college “must teach people to be responsible and [held] accountable. There are going to have people who will understand [some] behaviours aren’t acceptable, but then you’re going to get that one person who thinks it’s okay. That’s what we have to deal with.”