In September 2003, I returned to Nova Scotia after living in Rankin Inlet for a year. In that year, I worked as a front desk and housekeeping supervisor at the Siniktarvik Hotel. I enjoyed my job and had a great time with the staff and guests. It was the first time in years I had fun at a job.
Our regulars would often call from the airport and crack jokes. One military man would always ask for a pool filled with chocolate pudding to be ready for wrestling. Some women would take offense to such a suggestion, but not me. I took it as the joke they intended it to be and went with it. My response, "We are out of pudding so we need to substitute it with Jello."
About seven months into my contract, the eye clinic came to town. The team included an ophthalmologist, an optometrist and two assistants. The clinic had rented two of our conference rooms to perform eye exams and order glasses.
On the second day of the clinic, an Inuit elder came into the hotel. It was near the end of my shift when he approached the front desk. He spoke to me in Inuktitut and when I gave him a look saying I didn’t understand; he put his fingers around his eyes. I clued in that he wanted to see the eye doctor. Since he didn’t understand me either, I motioned for him to follow me.
At the room where the optometrist had set up to register clients, I gestured for him to go in. As soon as I did, I felt fingers fondling my right nipple. I froze for a split second and then rushed back to the front desk. Being in such shock and disbelief; I left the poor assistant alone with this pervert. Despite trying to make a joke of what had happened, but, I felt violated. Maybe it’s because I had been.
My front desk agent, Lucy, told me of the man’s history of putting his hands on women for over forty years and getting away with it. Learning of this angered me. As much as I didn’t want to charge him, I also didn’t want him doing this to young girls who didn’t know it was illegal. I called the RCMP detachment to check on my options.
After giving the officer all the information I had, I asked what my choices were. He advised the only way to keep him from assaulting other women was to charge him. I agreed and made an appointment to see him the following afternoon.
My general manager informed me they would not pay me for the time I missed. It incensed me although I kept my feelings hidden. She knew a sexual assault happened to me. Not only that, she knew it happened on work property during company time. I tried to explain this to her, but it fell on deaf ears. For whatever reason, she didn’t want to see my point of view.
Despite not getting paid for time missed, I knew I needed to go forward with pressing charges. I couldn’t, in good conscience, allow this man to get away with assaulting women one more time. No one should think to put their hands on another person without consent. They should also not think they won’t face the consequences. He needed to know what he did was not okay; he needed to face justice.
I left work to take the short walk to the RCMP detachment.
After filling out the required paperwork, the officer, and I talked about what had happened. I gave him the details and how I learned of the man’s name. He informed me the Mounties knew of the man’s history and were looking for someone to not back down from charging him.
He advised he and his partner would go to the perpetrator’s home to charge him. The officer continued to tell me they would contact me once they finished. I told him I would be at my second job and he could call me there.
About an hour into my shift at the travel agency, I received the expected phone call. The officer stated my assailant wanted to sit down with me and apologize. He also wanted to promise to never do it again. This made me laugh out loud. “He may not do it to me again, but that doesn’t mean he won’t do it to somebody else.”
“I told him he picked the wrong woman this time. So, does that mean you want to go ahead with the charges?” I answered yes. “Good girl,” he said, hanging up the phone.
It felt good to have praise for doing the right thing and to have support. This would prove almost non-existent with most of my coworkers. The only exception was Lucy, the front desk clerk. One colleague had the nerve to tell me he only touched my breast, so it wasn’t a big deal. She asked why I was even pressing charges.
Are you serious with that question? Why am I charging him? Because he broke the law when he put his hand on me. He violated me. My general manager even got into my face and had the nerve to ask me if I wanted to open that can of worms.
I could feel myself glaring at her when I answered yes.
It is my belief she thought my going ahead with the charges would make her and the hotel look bad. I was being made out to be the villain instead of the victim. Because of my going forward with the case, I believe they did not renew my contract.
No one understood how dirty I felt and wanted to shower all the time. I could still feel the man’s hands on me. I would go home after work and cry myself to sleep.
Lucy told me she would go to court on my behalf and testify against him. I appreciated and loved her friendship and support. No one else reached out to me to see how I was doing. But, my general manager asked me to reach out to one of the other front desk agents when her daughter was being bullied at school.
I couldn’t believe the hypocrisy! How was I expected to help someone else when I was going through my ordeal? Why should I extend a soft shoulder when no one else was doing the same for me? My general manager didn’t seem to want to understand that. If she did, she would have been more compassionate. Maybe.
They scheduled the court date for early September, but my assailant did not show up. He claimed he was having breathing issues, so they changed the date to mid-October. Since my contract was up in mid-September, I had requested to stay on until the trial was over. Request denied.
I called the RCMP detachment to advise them of the situation. They told me to not worry as they would call me if they needed me to testify. But, there was no need as he pleaded guilty. His sentence was a slap on the wrist with only six months' probation.
But, I am happy there was a sentence on record. It meant any further charges may cause stiffer sentences. All the drama I endured after the assault had taken its toll on me and as a result, I fell back into depression.