British Columbia

B.C. university student injured in alleged homophobic assault at off-campus party

A student at Vancouver Island University was injured Saturday evening in what he says was an unprovoked homophobic assault at an off-campus party in Nanaimo.

Spencer Frey says he endured homophobic slurs before being punched multiple times in the face by partygoers

Vancouver Island University student Spencer Frey said he was the victim of an unprovoked homophobic attack at an off-campus party late Saturday evening. (Submitted by Spencer Frey)

UPDATE, March 30, 2022: Nanaimo RCMP say they have arrested a 19-year-old man for the assault after he turned himself in to police late Tuesday.

A student at Vancouver Island University was injured Saturday evening in what he says was an unprovoked homophobic assault at an off-campus party in Nanaimo, B.C.

Spencer Frey, 19, who openly identifies as gay, told CBC News that he and a friend had attended a house party with other students where alcohol was being consumed, when several attendees he didn't recognize verbally and sexually assaulted him throughout the evening. 

Frey said the trouble began when one young man called him "disgusting" and uttered a homophobic slur. 

Sometime later, another man approached and groped his rear-end, "which made me so uncomfortable," said Frey, adding the person licked his lips suggestively at him before walking away. 

"I was in shock," said Frey. "I couldn't even say anything. Usually, I'm the type of person who would go crazy." 

The assaults escalated, Frey said, when a third young man approached him, accusing him of staring and then punched Frey in the face when he denied the accusations.

Frey said he was knocked to the ground and he sustained more blows to the face before he and his friend managed to leave the house — without his shoes.

As a result of the assaults, Frey said he was left with a swollen face, black eye, injuries to his mouth and contusions on his neck where, he says, someone tried to strangle him with his collar. 

Nanaimo RCMP investigating

Nanaimo RCMP Const. Gary O'Brien confirms police are investigating the incident but could not give further details.

Ella McNeill, Frey's friend at the party, said she couldn't believe what she witnessed as she helped him leave the house while a handful of partygoers were still trying to attack him.

"I'm still shaking as I talk about it," said McNeill.

She said the pair returned to Vancouver Island University where they live and did not contact police until the morning, because they were so stunned and frightened. 

Frey says he suffered a black eye, swollen face, injuries to his mouth and contusions around his neck as a result of the assault. ((Submitted/Spencer Frey))

Frey's mother, Erin Frey, told CBC she's "extremely angry" that her son was attacked, seemingly on the basis of his sexual orientation, and that she flew to Nanaimo from Vancouver early the next day, where the three went to the hospital. 

"This is Canada," she said in frustration. "We're supposed to be a country that's inclusive and accepting of all different types of [...] sexual orientations." 

She said they spoke to police at the hospital who later told them that at least one suspect is well known to them, though police would not confirm this detail with CBC.

VIU offering support

A statement from VIU's associate vice-president of student affairs, Irlanda Gonzalez Price, says the school is taking the incident very seriously and is working with the RCMP to investigate the "hate crime."

"As of Sunday morning, VIU has been in contact with the student and family and are offering ongoing support," the statement reads, adding that it's working with campus partners to "enhance training and awareness activities that help build allyship."

McNeill said Frey has received a tremendous amount of support online and from friends after pictures of his injuries were posted publicly on Instagram. 

Frey said he's been the victim of other verbal assaults both on and off campus since he moved to Nanaimo last September. 

He said he's now packed most of his possessions from his dorm room and does not plan to attend VIU next year.