GO PUBLIC

'I could have ID'd him': Woman says Dominican resort didn't investigate claim that she was raped by staffer

A Toronto woman says she took to social media to warn female travellers, after a security guard at a Dominican Republic resort raped her and the hotel “did nothing” to investigate.

Women take to Trip Advisor to warn fellow travellers about resorts

Christine Dayman says she was sexually assaulted by a security guard at an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana on the last night of a week-long family holiday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
  • UPDATE:  After publication of this story, a representative for Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts contacted Go Public to say the security guard has been fired.

A Toronto-area woman says she is going public to warn travellers, after a security guard at a Dominican Republic resort raped her and the hotel "did nothing" to investigate — an occurrence she believes is all too common.

Christine Dayman, 44, and her family were staying at the Grand Bahia Principe Turquesa resort in Punta Cana two months ago.

It was the third time the music teacher had travelled to the all-inclusive Dominican resort with her two sons and her aging parents.

"I have never had any notion of lack of safety," she says. "It's guarded. It's gated. It feels completely safe."

Dayman says she was walking along a path like this at night when a resort security guard started following her. She thought he was escorting her back to her room. (Christine Dayman)

On the night of March 16 as she was walking to her room alone, she says a resort security guard approached her without speaking — she believed he was escorting her to her room.

Instead, she says, he shoved her against a wall at the top of a stairwell, lifted her dress and forced himself on her.

"He pounced on me," says Dayman. "I was in such shock ... I couldn't process what was going on. I was completely stunned, and I froze."

'No one called the police'

After the security guard ran off, Dayman says she ran to her room and called a friend back in Toronto, in hysterics.  

The friend suggested Dayman report the attack at the front desk early the next morning — when she felt it was safe to leave her room.

"They sat me in the middle of the lobby and I filled out a measly incident form," says Dayman. 

No one called the police. No one offered to show me pictures to identify the security guard. I wasn't offered medical attention ... The only thing they offered me was late checkout.- Christine Dayman

"No one called the police. No one offered to show me pictures to identify the security guard. I wasn't offered medical attention ... The only thing they offered me was late checkout."

Dayman and her family returned to Toronto later that day as scheduled.

Once home, Dayman immediately saw a physician, filed a report with Durham Regional Police, and then posted a notice on Trip Advisor — an American travel and restaurant review website — to warn other women about her experience.

"There's a predator still there," says Dayman. "I have to speak out because it's a matter of public safety. They [the hotel] did nothing."

Hotel changes how complaints handled

After Dayman filled out a complaint form at the Grand Bahia Principe Resort, she followed up with several emails, asking the hotel to acknowledge the report she filed. 

"I just got a very curt standard response back saying, 'Would you please give us more time to look into it?' Then I sent a similar email a few days later, and got a response that said, 'Please be advised this has been escalated to the tour operator and we have nothing to do with it anymore.' So they were telling me not to be communicating with them further."

Dayman is most concerned about how hotel staff appeared to downplay what she says happened.

In emails between the hotel chain and the tour operator, the hotel says Dayman "refused medical attention and the involvement of authorities." It also says Dayman "was unable to identify the aggressor."

Dayman disputes those claims.

Dayman, seen here on the beach by the Grand Bahia Principe, says she had visited the resort in Punta Cana with her family before and never felt unsafe. (Submitted by Christine Dayman)

"I was never offered medical help, nor was it ever suggested that the police be contacted," she says. "I could have identified him."

After Go Public contacted the resort, it sent a statement saying it takes "any allegations of misconduct very seriously" and that it is updating its protocols so that guests will automatically be given medical support and hotel staff will offer to call police.

The email also said the hotel is revising its hiring policy, to include more thorough background checks of potential employees and increase the number of references required.

Others claim chain dismissed sex assaults

Go Public has found other complaints on Trip Advisor written by Canadian women who say they, too, were sexually assaulted by employees at resorts run by Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts.

We reached out to one of the women who posted about her experience at a Jamaican property, and she agreed to speak to us on condition of anonymity.

She stayed at the hotel chain's resort in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, in August 2016 and says a member of the hotel's entertainment staff sexually assaulted her and the resort did not offer to contact police.

The woman says the hotel's security team told her that other guests had reported being sexually assaulted by the same employee.

The hotel chain told Go Public that that employee is no longer employed at the resort.

Its statement says it "does not tolerate any forms of inappropriate behaviour" and that sexual assault by hotel employees "is unequivocally unacceptable and not in line with our company's ethics."

Trip Advisor flags risky resorts

So many women are speaking out about sexual assault by resort employees in numerous countries, Trip Advisor announced last fall that it would flag hotels where assaults have been reported.

That decision came after the review site came under fire for repeatedly deleting the reviews of women who reported being sexually assaulted at resorts in the Playa del Carmen region of Mexico.

Dayman says when she came home, she emailed the hotel, the Canadian tour operator and Canadian authorities, hoping it would pressure the hotel chain to investigate her complaint. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

In an email to Go Public, senior director of corporate communications Brian Hoyt wrote that Trip Advisor posts a notification about a resort "when a recent health, safety or discrimination issue comes to our attention via multiple, reputable media sources." 

He would not say how many resorts are currently flagged, and wrote that Trip Advisor would not post a notice about the Grand Bahia Principe Turquesa as there are already a number of reviews posted [citing concerns] "And those reviews have received a number of helpful votes from other users."

Tour operators urged to step in

Toronto lawyer Loretta Merritt, who has specialized in the civil litigation of sexual assault cases for three decades, estimates that her office has heard from about half a dozen women in the past 18 months who say they were sexually assaulted at a resort destination — most often by a hotel employee.  

"It's difficult to know how widespread it is," says Merritt, "because so many women do not report when they are sexually assaulted."

Lawyer Loretta Merritt says big tour operators could do more to insist resorts take reports of sexual assault seriously. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Resorts that aren't taking steps to protect travellers' safety, says Merritt, should lose the business of major tour operators.

"They [tour operators] are in a pretty powerful position," says Merritt. "They choose what hotels they operate in. They can say, 'If you don't do anything, we won't sell to you.'"

Transat Holidays responds

After Dayman contacted the tour operator that booked her flight and hotel — Transat Holidays — to report the sexual assault, Transat emailed an apology, saying "Such events, though extremely rare, are most deplorable."

In an email to Go Public, Transat spokesperson Debbie Cabana wrote that the company takes the allegations "very seriously" and that Transat has contacted the hotel "in order to obtain all pertinent information related to this complaint."

Ottawa gets involved

Dayman also reported the alleged rape to her MP, which prompted Global Affairs Canada to get involved.

Dayman says a consular case officer has contacted the Punta Cana resort to ask about security cameras and other measures in place to protect travellers' safety, and has also reached out to Transat Holidays.

In an email to Go Public, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada wrote, "Our heart goes out to her [Dayman]" and pointed to a travel advisory the government has issued for women travelling to the Dominican Republic, which says it has received reports of "assault, rape and sexual aggression against foreigners" and that in some cases, "hotel employees have been implicated."

After Dayman's complaint to Durham Regional Police was sent to authorities in the Dominican Republic, local police assigned an investigator, but Dayman has been told her case won't move forward unless she returns to the Caribbean country.

Hope speaking out helps healing

The women Go Public spoke to, who say they were sexually assaulted by resort employees, say they're not optimistic about getting justice.

They hope warning other women will help them cope with what happened — and prevent other female travellers from being harmed.

"If that security guard is still there — and I'm assuming he is and he's doing the same thing to other women — am I OK with that, when I could've spoken out?" asks Dayman. "No. I'm not OK with that."

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About the Author

Erica Johnson

Investigative reporter

Erica Johnson is an award-winning investigative journalist. She hosted CBC's consumer program Marketplace for 15 years, investigating everything from dirty hospitals to fraudulent financial advisors. As co-host of the CBC news segment Go Public, Erica continues to expose wrongdoing and hold corporations and governments to account.

With files from Enza Uda

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