Toronto

St. Mike's alumnus who was sexually assaulted at McGill calls private school his 'safe spot'

The victim of sexual assault at McGill University in 2005 is in "utter disbelief" about the latest allegations swirling around St. Michael’s College School. Alumnus D’Arcy McKeown says the Toronto private school was a "safe spot I went back to after my hazing."

St. Michael's College School alumni meet Tuesday to find out more about hazing allegations

D'Arcy McKeown, 31, says "the biggest disappointment" about the sex assault allegations at his former school, St. Michael's College School, "is that these things are still going on." (Anand Ram/CBC News)

D'Arcy McKeown says he's in "utter disbelief" at the allegations of sexual assault at St. Michael's College School.  

McKeown was the victim of sexual assault at McGill University in 2005 who sparked a national conversation about hazing. But before that, he was a student at the private, all-boys Catholic school. 

"St. Mike's was the safe spot I went back to after my hazing," said D'Arcy McKeown, who played football at the school from 2003 to 2005.

"There were no initiations or threats of hazing or any kind of behaviour like has been reported. So it was a big shock to hear that that was the case now."

McKeown will go to St. Michael's emergency alumni meeting to suggest introducing yearly mandatory education on anti-bullying and hazing.

Monday, police announced six St. Michael's students had been charged in an alleged gang sexual assault at the prestigious private school.

The Canadian Press spoke with police sources who confirmed that the charges filed Monday involved a group of students on the football team allegedly pinning down another student in a locker room and sexually assaulting him with a broom handle.

In 2005, McKeown was an 18-year-old rookie of McGill's football team when he was sexually assaulted with a broomstick by an upperclassman as teammates cheered him on.

'It's nothing like the St. Mike's I know'  

After the violence he endured in Montreal, he returned to St. Michael's to help with the school's football organization, which he said was "welcoming and very accepting."

Many of the members who were in place when he was seeking refuge at the school still work there now, he said.

"By and large these are people who I know are intrinsically against this," McKeown said.

"Certainly, between the shock and everything else, it really was a hard story to digest because it's nothing like the St. Mike's I know."

He is also attending Tuesday's meeting of former St Michael's students to show the alleged victim in this case, or any other hazing , that he is there for them.

"All I can think to say is that it gets better. This is not the end all be all of you," he said.

"You can find yourself and you know there are many more people who have gone through this stuff and if you ever need to talk I'm there."

'St. Mike's has meant everything to me in my life'

The list of politicians, businessmen and professional athletes who attended St. Michael's is a long one.

Included on that list is Robert Grossi, the former mayor of the town of Georgina and currently a regional councillor in York Region. He attributes his success to St. Michael's College School.

"St. Mike's has meant everything to me in my life," he told CBC Toronto.

"I can't recall one incident where I was ashamed of my association with St. Michael's," he said. "I walked into St. Michael's in Grade 9 and to be honest it was the best experience of my life."

York Region Coun. Robert Grossi says he wants to show support for the victims of the alleged sex assault, but also wants to defend St. Michael's College School as an institution. (submitted by Robert Grossi)

Grossi, 65, played football at St Michael's from 1967 to 1972 and was the Bantam team's MVP in 1968.

The former quarterback and defensive back said he never witnessed anything resembling the abuse that is alleged to have just happened, which is why he is speaking out now.

"I am appalled by what I hear today with respect to some of the incidents. But I attended a school that was much different from what I'm hearing about in all of the newscasts today," he said.

Why are people 'throwing mud' at the school, alumnus asks

Since the allegations at St. Michael's surfaced other alumni have come forward; including Jean-Paul Bedard, a former member of the football team. Bedard alleges he experienced sexual violence during hazing incidents at the school 35 years ago. 

"For those people that are throwing mud at the school, why are they piling on now? Is it just opportunism to say something?" Grossi said.

"I've been through that school up and down back and forth and you know I'm surprised by what I'm hearing from some people."

Grossi, who is a former president of the St. Michael's Alumni Association, will attend the emergency alumni meeting Tuesday to show his support for the victims and to support the school.

 But he also wants to find out exactly what happened.

He's not concerned for the future viability of the school, which enjoys a large amount of private donations from its influential alumni.

The school's financial statements show it received $750,432 in fundraising and donations in 2017. Under expenses the school reported paying out more than $2 million in bursaries and scholarships in 2017.

"People have to understand that if these things occurred, shame on those that are involved. But as far as the history of the school and the integrity of the school... it shouldn't be washed over by this horrific incident," Grossi said.

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