Manitoba

'He completely violated me': Winnipeg student talks about alleged assault by doctor

The 19-year-old woman went to the Winnipeg walk-in clinic that Thursday morning, hoping the doctor she trusted could figure out the cause of her abdominal pain. She says instead, he sexually assaulted her for up to 30 minutes, then told her to keep quiet.

WARNING: This story contains graphic information

Drawing provides comfort to the 19-year-old woman who alleges a Winnipeg doctor that she trusted sexually assaulted her.

A 19-year-old woman at the centre of a sexual assault case against a Winnipeg doctor said she originally wanted to keep it all a secret because she thought no one would believe her.

But her fear for other women made her go to the police. Now she's sharing the disturbing details of that walk-in clinic visit with CBC News.

The woman, whose identity is being protected by the CBC, had been experiencing abdominal pain and went to the clinic on Johnson Avenue West to see a doctor she believed she could trust.

The woman had seen Dr. Amir Ravesh 'four or five times' in the past and was at ease with him when he entered the treatment room the morning of Oct. 19. That quickly changed.

I wanted to defend myself but I couldn't because every single muscle in my body was stiff.

"I didn't really get the chance to explain what I wanted to get examined. It seemed really rushed," she said.

"He right away just asked me to kind of just pull down my pants and lean against the table and I was really confused about that. I was like I was like, 'wait, what?'

"And then he said, 'Oh don't worry, it's OK, you don't have to be nervous. It's just what we do here.' I wasn't expecting any of that, so I did."

The woman said the doctor began to touch and insert his fingers into her genitals while fondling her breast.

"I was just so shocked, I didn't know what to do. My body was so frozen. I wanted to defend myself but I couldn't because every single muscle in my body was stiff," she said.

"Then he leaned over against me and said, 'By the way, you have a really nice ass, you should use it more, I wish I could use it.'"

He touched her some more until she told him to stop.

"Then he told me to stand beside the examination table after I pulled up my pants. And he came up really close to me, he grabbed my hand and put it on his genitals and told me to massage it," she said.

The doctor grabbed her hips, sat down and pulled her onto his lap then rubbed his groin against her, she said. When she got up he leaned in and kissed her twice, she said.  

The woman said the doctor called her a "special patient" and said he really liked her. He then said they could have good sex together "and that I should come again once a week."

'What if this happened to somebody else?'

The woman said the assault lasted about 30 minutes and just before she left the room, the doctor told her to keep quiet about it.

"I walked straight out of the clinic and I started crying," she said, adding she planned to keep quiet about what happened, not because the doctor said so, but because "nobody's going to believe me."

Dr. Amir Ravesh has been charged in connection with a sexual assault on a woman at a Winnipeg medical clinic. (Linkedin)

"I'm not telling my parents. I'm just going to let it go," she told herself as she bused to university classes after leaving the clinic.

But she knew the clinic served youth in the community and she was worried for them.

"I just thought it would've been so selfish of me to just keep this inside. Because what if this happened to somebody else, and I just saw this on the news? I'd feel terrible, like I could've prevented that."

The next morning she was still suffering from the abdominal pain that sent her to the walk-in clinic in the first place. Scared to try another clinic, she went to the Health Sciences Centre.

"I knew that something like that was highly unlikely in a hospital where there's a bunch of doctors in one place," she said.

As she spoke to the doctor there, she started crying and her story of the day before spilled out. He listened, and told her he wanted to help her.

She received medical attention for the alleged incident then gave a statement to the Winnipeg police that evening.

'Egregious abuse of power'

Ravesh turned himself in to police and was charged with sexual assault. He has since been released from custody on a promise to appear in court. 

"The Winnipeg Police Service has received a number of phone calls regarding the conduct of Dr. Ravesh and the investigation is continuing," Const. Jay Murray wrote in a statement to CBC.

"I hope this can encourage other individuals who have been a victim of a situation or circumstance like this to come forward."

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba released a statement earlier this week, saying they are aware of the charges against Ravesh and that he is no longer practising medicine, but not for any disciplinary reason.

Dr. Ravesh was on the board of the Manitoba College of Family Physicians as secretary but he "voluntarily recused himself from upcoming Board activities," Dr. Tamara Buchel said in a statement, adding the executive and board of MCFP are in the process of reviewing Dr. Ravesh's standing.

CBC reached out to Dr. Ravesh through the clinic, but has not had a response. 

The director of a Winnipeg clinic that helps survivors of sexual assault says stories like these are disappointing.

"We would see a scenario like this as an egregious abuse of power," said Nicole Chammartin, executive director of Klinic, which provides a sexual assault reporting line and counseling to people who have experienced sexual assault.

She said it's not uncommon for sexual assault or harassment to happen when there's a power imbalance, and was "disappointed" to learn that this alleged incident involves a physician.

"This is an ultimate responsibility, these are folks that have critical roles and we expect a high degree of trust and safety with and that [would be] an incredible breach of trust."

She said she is "in awe" whenever a survivor shares her story but added that speaking out is beneficial because it encourages conversations about sexual violence and often brings other women forward to report.

"I also think it's really important that we honour and respect that, for so many people, they can't talk for a thousand different reasons."

'I really did trust him'

The young woman said for the past week, she's barely slept.

A science student, she has aspirations of becoming a doctor herself and is in the midst of exam week. But she is struggling with flashbacks of the alleged incident.

"He completely violated me and broke my trust. I really did trust him and I thought he was such a good doctor," she said. "I thought he really, really cared about my health." 

She said she sustained a minor injury from the alleged assault but the emotional pain is much worse.

"I can feel it physically. I'm never hungry anymore."

She said she finds comfort in the support from her loved ones and strength from the voices of other survivors. She also draws comfort from making art, like sketching.

"Sexual violence is not OK. And it's something that shouldn't be happening, especially by a doctor — or by anybody, really," she said.

"It's something that shouldn't be happening in 2017 and nobody should be afraid of speaking out about it."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin Brohman

Reporter

Erin Brohman is an RN who specialized in pediatrics before entering what she thought would be a year-long foray into journalism. After graduating from the University of King's College in Halifax, she took off to Yellowknife to work for CBC North for nearly two years, then settled in Winnipeg. At CBC Manitoba she blends her interests in health care and sharing people's stories. Story tip? Email erin.brohman@cbc.ca.

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