Montreal student exposed at frosh party awarded $34K in sexual harassment case

Kimberley Marin, a student at Montreal's École de technologie supérieure, was awarded the money four years after a group of men removed her skirt at a frosh party, leaving her half-naked in front of a roomful of people.

Quebec's human rights commission found École de technologie supérieure failed to protect Kimberley Marin

Kimberley Marin filed a complaint to Quebec's human rights commission after a 2015 incident at a frosh party at École de technologie supérieure, where she was studying mechanical engineering. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Quebec's human rights commission has found a Montreal university failed to protect one of its students from discrimination and harassment.

Kimberley Marin, who was a student at École de technologie supérieure (ETS), was awarded $34,500 in punitive, moral and material damages last March, four years after a group of men removed her skirt at a frosh party, leaving her half-naked in a roomful of people.

Marin said it was a long process, and she was elated by the decision.

"I cried a lot. It was more than everything I could imagine and that I could ask for," she told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

Marin said she made sure she didn't have to sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of the decision because she "wanted women to know they have rights: they can make complaints, and there are consequences."

The engineering school issued a statement Tuesday morning that includes an apology to Marin from the director general of ETS, François Gagnon.

"This unfortunate episode has highlighted our organization's failure to deal with harassment complaints," Gagnon said.

The frosh party challenge

According to the written decision, in September 2015 Marin was a second-year student and a team leader during a Hawaiian-themed frosh party. She was wearing a bikini and straw skirt.

Three of the accused were on a different team. Their team leader issued a challenge — bring him Marin's skirt.

The three accused grabbed her from behind, lifted her up and removed the skirt, the decision says. She didn't see them coming and yelled for them to put her down.

In pulling down her skirt, her bikini bottom also fell down. She realized, once they had left with her skirt, that she was exposed in front of about 100 people, mostly men.

Immediately afterward, she approached a member of her student association to complain. According to the decision, he said something to the effect of, "What did you expect, with the way you are dressed?"

École de technologie supérieure said in a statement it has made changes to better prevent and deal with incidents of sexual harassment. (Google)

Marin then went to see the interim student services director, Olivier Ringuet, who tried to discourage her from filing a complaint. He made her feel like she was playing the victim, she said in an interview.

"I was very frustrated that nobody was taking my complaints seriously."

She went back to the student association to file an official complaint and was dissuaded once again. One of the representatives was worried a complaint would prompt the school to cancel future frosh activities.

In April 2016, she filed an assault and sexual harassment complaint with the school's secretary general. An outside investigator found her complaint was founded and that what happened to her at the frosh party constituted sexual harassment, as defined by the school's policy.

She said the decision was never publicized at the school, and the three men faced no consequences.

"Let's say students cheat. They can be suspended or expelled. But if they harass women, nothing happens," she said.

For that reason, she said, she made a complaint to the human rights commission. Her case was heard in October 2018.

Making changes

In its statement, ETS said things have changed at the school and will continue to change.

It lists measures that have been taken since 2016, including the adoption of a structured and confidential process for the reception and management of complaints, and the establishment of an office dedicated to preventing harassment and resolving issues.

Marin said before that incident, she experienced sexism at the school, where the majority of students are men.

After the incident, she said some of her peers shunned her. Two years ago, a male student screamed at her in the Metro, calling her a liar and attention-seeker, she said. She dropped out soon after that incident.

Marin plans to return to ETS in January — she has two courses left to complete her degree in mechanical engineering.

But right now, she is working at the human rights commission.

"Through all the events, I found that I wanted to defend human rights. I found my dream job there."

With files from Lauren McCallum