A Victoria resident who used to attend Carihi Secondary School in Campbell River has penned an open letter after she was assaulted by a former teacher.
The woman, who has requested to remain anonymous, states that she was sexually assaulted in June 2017 three years after she had graduated from the school, when she ran into a group of former teachers on a visit to Quadra Island.
In her letter, she candidly addresses the other teachers present on the night in question who she says knew what happened and chose to do nothing about it.
Read her letter below:
A (very long) open letter to the Carihi teachers who protected their own
—TW: Sexual Assault—
I’ve gone back and forth on this for days. I don’t want to be accused of seeking attention or sympathy. I wanted to consult everyone important to me before writing this. I was scared to surprise, or shock, but I realized that shouldn’t be the point – that it is not my actions that are shocking, but yours. I originally wrote this for myself – to figure this out, but I think there is value in sharing it. I just want to call out a system that allowed me to be abused, and ask for more from a group of people held highly within the Campbell River community. I want to speak about what happened and start a conversation.
Most people who know me can attest — my go-to line for describing high school is “I had a positive high school experience!” and I really did. I had a close-knit group of friends. I was an active participant in the drama department, graduation executive, leadership and more. I loved the community Carihi Secondary provided me and I adored the teachers – many, I considered friends.
I trusted you, Carihi Secondary. You were a school I could come back to. A school I looked forward to visiting, with teachers I wanted to keep in touch with.
That changed in June of 2017 on Quadra Island, three years after I graduated from Carihi, when one of you decided to sexually assault me.
I will not delve into the details of that night. It does me no favours to go back and relive that exploitation of authority and demolition of trust. That’s not what this letter is about. This letter is addressed, instead, to the men of Carihi Secondary, who had the opportunity to do the right thing, to take in the drunken man who was about to abuse me, to stop the events that were about to unfold from unfolding, and who, instead, shut the door in my face. I hope that the next time I see one of you around town, you can pick your gaze up off the ground and look at me.
It was early June of 2017 and a friend’s band was playing at the Heriot Bay Inn: one of the local, and only, places to drink on Quadra Island. Anyone who is familiar with Quadra is familiar with the HBI. It was a safe choice, until it wasn’t.
It was that particular night that a portion of the Carihi staff also decided to embark for Quadra Island to blow off some steam and enjoy some live music. The teachers, the majority of which were male, were already present when I arrived at the bar that night. At first, my friends’ and I’s strategy was to keep our distance – no one wants to see their high school teachers hammered. But, as drinks flowed, the two groups became more friendly with one another, as it always goes.
At the end of the night, I was asked by a Carihi teacher – whom, after much thought, I have decided not to name – to help him get back to his cabin. I was familiar with the location and it was a short walk, so I agreed to help, putting the drunk teacher around my shoulders and setting off.
This is where I am speaking directly to the men of Carihi Secondary, the ones present that evening. When I arrived at the cabin you’d rented – the cabin you’d all rented together – you took one look at this drunken man, standing with a past student, and decided it was trouble you didn’t want to get involved with. Trouble that might cost your careers.
I explained that I did not want to join him in coming in, that I just wanted to drop him off where he belonged, but the image of us together, possibly planning to engage in something inappropriate, was too much for you and you refused.
You shut the door in my face and left me with the man who would soon assault me. A man you all had your doubts about. A man known for inappropriate comments. Did you stop to think I was in danger? That this man could hurt me? That this was an inappropriate scenario? I honestly hope you didn’t – because if you did, it means you knowingly left me on my own anyway. The men who helped shape a younger version of myself were the first to become implicit in my assault.
Again, I don’t plan to go into details. There is nothing to be learned from it. It sucked. It continues to suck. The man that committed the assault no longer works at Carihi Secondary. I have a whole different letter addressed to him, but this is to you – to the rest of you.
Three weeks after my assault, a family member of mine who worked at Carihi Secondary, contacted me, telling me she had heard from the counsellor at Carihi what had happened. At the time, the counsellor was a woman not present the evening of the incident. My family member continued on to explain to me that she had been told this information at a Carihi staff barbecue – you were talking about it. This triggered the realization that more people than I realized knew what had happened.
Although, I had always known you knew what had happened. You answered the door that night, didn’t you? You spent the remainder of the night with him. One of you came to take him away after the incident. You are men with children, with daughters, with wives, who didn’t come out to protect me because I didn’t fall into any of those categories. Next time, I urge you to protect all women, not just your own.
Almost three years have passed and I wonder how I went from the youth that you taught, travelled with, and formed a relationship with, to the adult who you left to fend for herself – the adult that you never checked in with, despite staring me in the eyes and shutting the door. Did it bother you? Does it still bother you? Does it sound like I want it to bother you? Maybe I do.
I reached out to some of the staff I was closest with, who weren’t there that night, asking for advice, only to be told that because I wasn’t a student anymore, nor a minor, that there was nothing they could do. That they didn’t believe he was a danger to students, and therefore, they wouldn’t pursue it. I was told to go to the police.
So, I went to the police with three(!) witnesses – to whom I am eternally grateful – only to be told that I didn’t have enough evidence to go forward. So, here we are. This is my solution.
I don’t think I stand to gain much from this letter. There’s no going back in time and repairing the relationship I had with Carihi Secondary, nor is there a need for me to. I’ve got a great support system. However, I do hope that someone does stand to gain something from this.
I hope that the next time the staff of Carihi Secondary are faced with the chance to do the right, that they do. I hope that they recognize the danger in sending a young woman into the middle of the night with a man too drunk to find his way home. I hope that they advocate for the safety of their students, past and present, and actively work to create the spaces they walk through safer for all.
I’d like to end by saying that there are many, many wonderful teachers at Carihi who I truly believe, had they been there that evening, would have acted in a more honourable way.