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3rd woman alleges she was sexually assaulted at Dominican resort

Last Updated Jun 7, 2017 at 9:57 pm EDT

A third woman is alleging a hotel staff member sexually assaulted her while she was at one of the RIU Hotels in the Dominican Republic.

The 25-year-old woman, who CityNews has agreed not to identify, was staying at the RIU Meringue in Puerto Plata in April. On the second day of her two week stay on the resort, she claims a bartender climbed on top of her and touched her inappropriately.

“I tried telling him I’m married, stop, no, you need to get off,” the woman said.

When she tried to report the incident to hotel management right after it occurred, she said her claims were not taken seriously, noting she saw the man who allegedly assaulted her on the premises again the very next day.

“When I asked about contacting the police, I was told, ‘it’s not a police matter, it’s a hotel matter,'” she explained.

The woman claims she continued reporting the alleged sexual assaults four more times, and even forced staff to take down her written statement. A few days before leaving to come back home to Canada, she learned there was a local Sunwing rep available for assistance. The tour operator exclusively flies Canadians to RIU resorts.

She says she was shocked when the rep told her she could be arrested for reporting the incident.

“She threatened me because it had been so long in me talking to her, there would be no evidence, and if there’s no evidence, I would be charged.”

A Sunwing rep says the airline is in contact with RIU hotels and is continuing to investigate the matter.

“We were concerned to hear of the incident alleged to have taken place at Riu Merengue in April,” read a statement from the company. “This matter was brought to our attention at the end of our customer’s stay, some 10 days after it was alleged to have occurred. Once we were made aware, we immediately approached the hotel management and demanded a full investigation. We have been unable to get any documentation on this incident to date and have no record of any correspondence with the customer since her departure from the Dominican Republic.”

This past weekend, two other Canadian women came forward to say they were sexually assaulted by hotel staff members on separate visits to RIU Republica in Punta Cana. CityNews asked RIU about those claims when the stories aired on Friday and Saturday, but no comment was provided.

Early Wednesday morning, the head office in Spain replied in an email to CityNews, saying it’s taking these matters seriously.

“Out of respect for our customers, we never diffuse information about possible claims,” read the statement. “What we can tell you for sure, is that RIU takes the safety of its guests very seriously and that sexual harassment and any behavior that could annoy them is not tolerated under any circumstance. There is no record of other criminal claims related to cases of sexual harassment as you mention. For your information, any claim of harassment or incident in our hotels are investigated with the same diligence and all necessary legal measures are taken in collaboration with the pertinent authorities.”

A Toronto criminal lawyer says he would not count on the resort filing a formal complaint.

“You can imagine what the conflicts of interest are here,” said Brian Heller, a lawyer and partner with Heller, Rubel. However, he says it’s important for anyone who is the victim of sexual assault to report it so that their incident is on record.

“Tourism is very important to the Dominican Republic, so this is something that is front and centre on everybody’s radar,” Heller said.

The U.S. Human Rights Country report on the Dominican Republic states, “while there are laws in lace to punish gender-based violence, they weren’t adequately enforced.” Additionally, the report notes the judicial system lacked an integrated approach to victim care and lacked resources to prosecute perpetrators successfully.