A week-long vacation that began at the Sunwing counter at Pearson airport ended with allegations of sexual assault against a resort employee in the Dominican Republic. This is the fourth incident at a RIU resort reported to CityNews this summer.
This latest alleged incident comes from a woman who said a bartender sexually assaulted her at Hotel RIU Republica in Punta Cana.
Emily (not her real name) said her boyfriend surprised her with a vacation down south to celebrate her birthday. They left Toronto on June 19, and five days later she had a run-in with a bartender by the hotel pool.
“He proceeded to grope me and pulled me by my arm into the handicap stall and locked me in,” she said. “He turned off the lights and proceeded to assault me.”
Emily said she pleaded with the bartender to let her go.
“Even though he was forcing himself on me, I tried to tell him that if he let me out, he wouldn’t get in trouble,” she said.
She said she and her boyfriend reported the incident to hotel management and also filed a report with Punta Cana police. Emily said they were told the RIU employee was fired, arrested and charged.
When she came back to Canada, someone sent her links to CityNews stories about three different Canadian women who alleged they were raped or sexually assaulted by RIU employees down south.
One of those stories struck a chord with Emily, who said the similarities were eerie.
“She was also pulled into the washroom by a bartender and it also happened in the pool area,” she said.
“That sent chills through my whole body and that really scared me.”
Emily retained two lawyers, one in the Dominican Republic and one in Toronto.
A Sunwing rep told CityNews safety is of “paramount importance to us and we take matters such as this one very seriously.”
The tour operator, who exclusively flies Canadians to RIU resorts, also said it only learned of Emily’s incident one week after it happened. The matter is now with local authorities and the company has been in touch with Emily’s lawyer, Sunwing said.
“I can confirm that we did receive a letter from the lawyer on Aug. 29 and responded on Aug. 30 acknowledging receipt and advising that we are in the process of investigating this very serious matter further with RIU Hotels,” the company said in an email. “We did commit to getting back to the lawyer on Sept. 11 with an update.”
Emily’s lawyer Loretta Merritt wants the tour operator to do more and impose a warning.
“There’s enough of a pattern here to suggest that it’s a foreseeable problem, so in those circumstances I would expect a tour operator to satisfy themselves that cannot happen again,” said Merritt.
“Her concerns are not only her own personal damages that she suffered, but also making sure that that doesn’t happen to other women.”
With the support of her family, Emily said she is determined to see this through.
“I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to have to go through something so traumatic,” she said.
CityNews reached out RIU’s head office in Spain early Friday morning, but has not yet received a response.