My initial reaction to my assault was trying to justify it. Was this a strange custom I didn't know about? Was I in any way flirting with him? The answer to all of these was of course "no" but it didn't stop me from questioning whether or not I was in the wrong.
In 2011 I was eating frozen yogurt with friends when all of a sudden my back molar decided to completely disintegrate. At the time, I was attending university and was on a student health plan so I booked in with a dentist who was on the list of practices I could use my health plan at. I didn't choose this dentist for any particular reason other than his office was located downtown and I knew I wanted to go shopping later on in the day. I booked my appointment for the next day.
During this first appointment I found the dentist to be quite chatty and seeing as I am a chatty person myself, we got along well. My Mom told me that when I was little and visited the dentist, that after my appointments he would come out and tell my Mom that he now knew mine and my family's life story.
After this appointment the dentist told me that I should come back the following week for a cleaning as I was due for one. I made the appointment for the next week and after that appointment he asked to schedule a third appointment as he hadn't gotten the cleaning done and we needed an other appointment to do so. I scheduled the next appointment and went on my merry way.
During this final appointment things started to feel strange. For one thing, he decided to place my head between his knee caps and work from above. I had never, ever seen a dentist do this as is that not the reason that those chairs can move up and down and he can roll his chair underneath if he needs to work from above?
At the end of the appointment, I was lying down in the chair waiting for him to raise it back up when he decided to lean down and kiss me on the corner of my mouth for 5-6 seconds. I immediately got up and said "Um bye" and I left.
I remember standing outside his office and being in shock. Then I went into justification mode. The dentist wasn't originally from Canada so was this a custom from where he was from that I didn't know about? Then I thought back to our interactions. Was I being too friendly? Did I give him the wrong idea?
No. The answer was always no.
It actually broke my heart to think that my first reaction was to try and justify HIS actions. What he had done was wrong and it broke a confidence I had in a professional. He invaded MY space in a setting where I was vulnerable.
The next day, I went to work and told my coworkers what had happened. They all told me I should phone the police. On my lunch break I phoned the non-emergency line for the local police and I remember the dispatcher telling me that what had happened to me was "wildly inappropriate" and that after work I should go file a sexual assault report.
I then took the bus to the police station and I went to the young officer in uniform at the desk and explained what had happened to me. He handed me a paper form and told me to have a seat and write out everything that happened. I sat down and looked at the form. "Sexual Assault Report". A lump formed in my throat. I never thought I would ever have to fill one of these out and that made me feel sick.
I remember taking around 45 minutes to write out everything on the form and then I went back to the officer and handed him my completed report. He took the report and said "We will file this so there's a record in case anything else happens and then we are going to go have a talk with him." I was comfortable with this as I figured that if a cop came up to me and told me I was doing something wrong that I would rethink my behaviour. Then I went home.
I didn't think about it again until a few years after I had moved home and graduated from university. Something told me to google this dentist. I typed in his name to the search bar and the first page that came up was a site called "Rate My Doctor" which was a site that offered people the opportunity to rate the medical professional and to leave anonymous comments. I scrolled through the comments and immediately I became angry. There were 4 or 5 comments since my incident had occurred of women saying that he had "put my head between his knees", or "kissed me on the forehead". What kind of idiot continued to act like this after they had gotten a warning from the police?!
That was it. I decided I was going to file a report with the College of Dental Surgeons about the incident. I wanted to have my police report as part of my report so I phoned the police station where I had filed my report and the dispatcher wasn't able to help me. I left multiple messages and had no returned calls. Finally I got a hold of someone who could give me my report and that's when they told me. She told me that "there is no record of a sexual assault report filed by you."
They never filed the report. He never got a warning.
That's when I immediately burst into tears. I felt this sense of responsibility for all the girls in those comments that the dentist had also assaulted and that it could have been prevented had someone actually filed the report. I know it isn't my fault but I felt like it was.
The next day I went to my local police in my home city and I asked for a female officer to take my report. I felt completely justified in my being a little sexist in this situation. It's frustrating that I felt that way but I did.
After a few weeks I was contacted by a detective from my home and he asked if I could record a video explaining what had happened. He then sent that video to a detective in the city where it occurred and for the last almost 3 years, this detective would phone me with updates on the case.
A few months after I had refiled my report, a friend reached out and asked me the name of the dentist who had assaulted me. I told her and she told me that she thought her friend had just been assaulted by the same man. I was shocked. I then reached out to the girl and she told me what had happened and I gave her the name of my detective and that if she decided to file a report with the police, I suggested she record the name and badge number of the officer taking her report and the report number. No one had told me this before filing my report and I didn't want her to make the same mistake I had.
Then I made my report to the College of Dental Surgeons and they began their own investigation into the matter.
After 2 years, they closed their case and imposed a number of restrictions on the dentist.
He was required to:
- "Successfully complete (pass) a multi-day ethics-based problem solving course;
- Not see any patient at the practice without a College-approved staff person in attendance at all times, with conspicuous signage in place advising of this condition on his practice." - College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia
I felt good with this as I knew that he couldn't see any patient without (essentially) a babysitter.
It's been almost 3 years now and they have finally closed this part of the case on the criminal investigation. The police decided not to press criminal charges because of how thorough the College of Dental Surgeons investigation was and all that was imposed on him already was more than what could be done in a court of law. Essentially they realized even if he was convicted that he would just get a slap on the wrist whereas the restrictions have actually had an effect on his business.
And now we come to final part of this case that actually bugs me the most. Who was this officer that I gave the report to and why did he decide to be a judge and deem my sexual assault report unworthy of filing?
There is currently an internal investigation into this and once they find out who the officer was, I will be filing a formal complaint.
It wasn't his decision to make to not file my report.
I put my trust in two different professionals and both times I was failed. Obviously change needs to happen as this isn't something that should be taken lightly and silently.
I've never had any issues discussing this as I don't want anyone to make the same mistakes I did in not recording the information from the officer. This isn't something I should have had to do but that's not the world we are currently living in. I didn't know that there isn't a statute of limitations when it comes to reporting sexual assault cases. I've met a bunch of women who have had experiences worse than mine and they were shocked to learn that something could be done years after. I've also met women who have been failed by the justice system and that makes my heart hurt and frustrated. I understand that there are women (and men) who have been assaulted and they don't feel comfortable with sharing their experience and I totally agree with that. That is a personal choice that no one should ever be forced into sharing. I am comfortable sharing my story because that was my choice to make.
I'm taking back the control that was temporarily taken away from me when the dentist decided to kiss me and when the officer decided not to file my report. That control is mine and I'm never walking away from it without a fight.