Sexual assault complaints taken to BC Human Rights Tribunal against UBC
By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter
UBC is in hot water in regard to the sexual harassment complaints that have been hidden and quieted by its administration for nearly two years. The stories of six women who had been sexually assaulted over a year ago have recently painted dark clouds above the Vancouver university.
The events were recounted in an investigation by The Fifth Estate, with incidents ranging from aggressive inappropriate touching to sexual assault. The confessions began trickling in one by one, and soon the victims connected the dots and realized they were abused by the same “predator,” Dmitry Mordvinov, a 28-year old PhD student enrolled in the history department at Green College.
When they asked UBC to deal with their complaints, the institution said they would investigate but simply suggested that unless they would want to deal with a lawsuit, then a face-to-face confrontation with the accused would be the best solution.
In each incident, Mordvinov allegedly attempted to make amends with the women, and, at times, tried to make sense of it all. In most cases, he apologized for his actions, but he tried to defend himself by saying that “an invitation to someone’s place is usually meant for sex.” Mordvinov offered to donate to a women’s organization of the victim’s choice in order to “make worth of the pain felt.”
Unsurprisingly, the women rejected the offer, and, having been previously told to keep quiet by UBC’s Equity Inclusion Office, brought the string of assaults to public attention. Although Mordvinov has been recently expelled from the university, the victims are seeking to prevent any further instances in the future.
“The women are launching a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal over sexual misconduct on campus over the past 20 years,” explained Tanya Beja, a CBC reporter.
According to the Huffington Post: “Interim president and vice-chancellor Martha Piper issued a statement apologizing to any women who felt let down by the university’s system for reporting sexual harassment. She pledged the school would launch an independent investigation into the matter.”
Caitlin Cunningham, one of the victims, said that the apology was a figurative representation of the overall problem.
“I felt that everyone I spoke to really cared, and everybody said, ‘We want to do the right thing here,’” Cunningham said during a news conference.
“And what’s been really, really troubling and really difficult and really disappointing is that I trusted and I believed that, and then it took them a year and a half to follow through.’’