How the Department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada Responds To Workplace Sexual Violence
Author’s Note: I wrote this statement to present at a hearing this morning related to a grievance I’ve filed against my employer. It’s been edited after the fact for clarity. The name of my rapist has been redacted to respect a publication ban on his name, and the names of the managers and Labour Relations advisors involved have been truncated to respect the process.
Please note that the following story contains graphic details of sexual violence.
Today is Monday, April 9, 2018. Between 1 and 2AM on Saturday, February 7, 2015, [redacted], a colleague of mine from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, raped me in the backseat of his car around the corner from my home.
It’s been over 3 years, but I can still see and hear the attack in my head, crystal clear, as if it happened just this morning. He lays me on my back, holding himself over me, positioned between my legs. My thighs tense up, and I push away from him as far as I can, about an inch before my head touches the door.
“No, [redacted],” I enunciate each syllable, tasting them on my tongue, feeling their sound vibrate in my throat, leaving absolutely no room for doubt in my mind that I said it, “No, no, no.” He rubs his penis against me, not wearing a condom. “You’re so scared,” he laughs. “If I wanted to do it, I would have done it already.”
Panic and terror fill my lungs like cement. I was 22-years old, and weighed maybe 105 lbs. Trapped in the backseat of a car in the middle of the polar vortex, pinned down by a man at least 4 years my senior. I refused to have unprotected sex with him. [redacted]’s response was to put me in a submissive position, and laughed in my face when I refused again.
“You are fucking lucky I am on birth control. If you finish in me, I will fucking kill you,” I submit, feeling my very humanity leave my body, disintegrating into the ether with every word.
He rapes me.
Still burnt into my brain are the sounds of his sweat and flesh meeting mine, my forehead hitting the door with a thud over and over again, his panting and grunting in my ear. Afterwards, we get dressed and he drops me off at my door. The first thing I do is get in the shower. I hope that the water burns my skin raw.
Two weeks later, as the PTSD began to manifest, I no longer felt safe being anywhere near him and reported the assault to my managers. Even though expressly I asked them not to, my managers called the police. That same night, [redacted] and a mutual, former friend used Twitter to call me a “crazy bitch” and a “faux-victim.” After filing a video statement with a detective, [redacted] was criminally charged with one count of sexual assault. Two days later, he tweeted in response, “making sexual stupidity a capital offence doesn’t educate men or rescue victims.”
These are two of my worst memories.
To experience sexual violence is a direct affront to your humanity. It is wanton disrespect to your personhood; a blatant violation of your right to your body. Your boundaries, your right to safety are willfully ignored for someone else’s pleasure. Not only is it a physical invasion, but like a psychological and spiritual parasite, it infects your mind and contaminates all aspects of your life.
Sexual violence does not occur in a vacuum. Trauma is not an article of clothing that you can take off and simply hang up in the closet by your desk. It doesn’t follow a schedule, and it doesn’t care about policies — it operates chaotically and unpredictably. Trauma completely and irrevocably shatters your worldview. It is a heavy emotional burden that you are forced to live with for years to come, if not the rest of your life.
IRCC has consistently invalidated that burden for 3 years and completely disregarded my humanity. Pamela B., Lauralee L., Salome T., Glen T., Gillian W., Paul A., Louis D., and many more officials within the department are complicit in perpetuating further violence and psychologically damaging a victim of sexual violence.
A co-worker from IRCC raped me. It was a traumatic event and I was consequently diagnosed with PTSD. Those are indisputable facts that I will never be able to change. The traumatic impact of sexual violence doesn’t depend on external validation. It doesn’t matter that [redacted] didn’t physically maim me, or that it didn’t happen at the office, or that there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed to trial. Rape is rape. IRCC failed to realize this simple principal.
To IRCC, my rape was not valid enough to deserve their support, and my wellbeing was unworthy of their empathy or compassion. Rape is dehumanizing enough as it is, and IRCC reinforced that concept by refusing me the basic human right to a harassment-free work environment.
I didn’t ask for them to fire the man who raped me, or to have him removed from the office. That was none of my concern. All I wanted was to be in a work environment where I didn’t have to perpetually relive my worst memory on a full-time basis. All I wanted was to be safe. My managers went out of their way to deny me even that.
Gillian, Glen, and their colleagues believed that an employee sexually assaulting another employee did not meet the definition of a disrespectful workplace simply because it occurred outside of the office.
They likened the relationship between a rapist and his victim to that of a divorcing couple.
Their actions and words implicitly demonstrate that they perceive that what he did to me was, at best, inconsequential, and at worst, morally acceptable.
At every turn, IRCC’s Labour Relations, Human Resources, and management at various levels have demonstrated that sexual violence and harassment are acceptable in the public service.
The public service is the backbone of Canada, and its existence is necessary for the successful operation of its government. But how can public servants be responsible for supporting the country and ensuring the wellbeing of its residents when it’s clear that we can barely support each other, even in times of crisis?
It is 2018. We must do better. In a social climate where multiple public figures have been exposed for decades of toxic and dehumanizing entitlement, the public service must set an example. As citizens of Canada, as citizens of the world, it is our moral and ethical imperative to ensure that survivors of sexual violence are supported.