A University of Toronto student has filed a human rights complaint against the school for mishandling her sexual assault case, saying the drawn-out investigation left her in regular contact with her rapist while he enjoyed almost complete freedom to continue his education and extra-curricular activities.
Tamsyn Riddle, 20, said the assault happened in the spring of 2015, when "a friendly acquaintance" she met at a Trinity College quad party asked her to come back to his room to drink vodka.
"I could never have predicted how thoughtlessly, how easily he would sexually assault me, just as I could never have predicted how systematically my university and my college would disappoint and re-traumatize me," Riddle said at a press conference Wednesday.
Riddle said that after she reported the assault, school administrators encouraged her not to go to police because she would be "disappointed" by the criminal justice system, and that the school takes sexual assault very seriously and would be able to better handle the complaint.
"I was lied to," Riddle said.
Her application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario names both the University of Toronto and Trinity College, and follows what she characterized as a frustrating year-and-a-half-long process during which she was often left in the dark about what actions the school was taking.
"I didn't necessarily want him to be in jail for the rest of his life. I just wanted to not see him around campus, so I thought reporting to the university would be a more effective way of getting that done," Riddle told BuzzFeed Canada.
According to the Toronto Star, Riddle's human rights complaint seeks $40,000 for general damages related to “stress, anxiety and academic setbacks.” She told BuzzFeed Canada she's also calling for a change in school policy to shorten the length of time it takes to investigate complaints, and better academic and mental health supports for students.
According to Riddle, it took seven months from the time she reported the assault for the school to put any interim measures in place against the accused student, and that he routinely violated them. Riddle said she kept seeing him in the dining hall despite a ban, in promotional videos for clubs he was not allowed to join in the first place, and around campus. She said the same student also sexually assaulted a friend of hers.
Throughout the school's investigation, which lasted more than 16 months from the time of her initial complaint, Riddle says she fell back in some of her classes, and suffered panic attacks and nightmares, for which a counsellor told her to download a meditation app on her phone.
Riddle said the investigation into the sexual assault was concluded without her knowledge, after the school reached an agreement with the alleged perpetrator and his lawyer. She said she only found out about it after the fact, and that she was not given any specifics about what sanctions he now faces.
"After a year and a half spent holding out hope, I finally realized the truth: the university will never be as concerned with my humanity as it is with not interfering with my rapist's education," Riddle said.
A spokesperson for the University of Toronto declined to comment on Riddle's case, citing privacy.
"While we can’t talk about specific cases, I can say we’ve been working closely with our community to get to where we are today, with a new streamlined policy and process," Althea Blackburn-Evans said in an email to BuzzFeed Canada. "We spent two years consulting to ensure we get this right, and we’re still open to more feedback on how we support people who’ve experienced sexual violence."
Riddle was joined at Wednesday's press conference by other survivors of sexual assault who described their own experiences navigating the school's bureaucracy. The speakers said the new policy on sexual assault did not include meaningful consultation with students, and that the school's main concern is avoiding bad publicity.
Last month, the campus advocacy group Silence is Violence put up posters about sexual assault, which were quickly removed by the school. The posters included testimonials from students.
"The Crisis Counselor won't respond to my emails," said one poster.
"U of T banned my rapist from my residence hall... and then let him move in early for frosh week," read another.
According to Silence Is Violence cofounder Ellie Ade Kur, the university hired independent contractors to tear the posters down within a day of them going up.
This post was updated with comment from the University of Toronto.
Ishmael N. Daro is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto. PGP fingerprint: 5A1D 9099 3497 DA4B
Contact Ishmael N. Daro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.