Warning: This story contains allegations of sexual assault that may be disturbing to some readers.
Members of the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre are commending women for coming forward with allegations of sexual assault against numerous real estate agents in Victoria.
“We are here for you. We believe you. We support you,” says Carissa Ropponen, a manager at the centre. “Thank you for coming out and speaking out and letting people know that this is a real serious issue that's happening here in Victoria.”
Shocking and disturbing allegations have surfaced online by multiple women claiming they were allegedly drugged and sexually assaulted by men in Victoria who were, at the time, working as real estate agents.
At the time of an alleged 2018 incident, two men worked for Engel & Volkers real estate company. The two individuals were employees at The Agency, a luxury real estate brokerage and lifestyle company, on March 25 when they were fired.
The woman, whose identity is being protected, tells Glacier Media she was offered wine and cocaine while inside the real estate office.
“I don’t do any cocaine. That was not something I partake in. Within probably 15 or 20 minutes, I don’t remember anything. Everything went black.”
When she woke up, she claims she was laid back in an office chair.
“My head was off to the side and one of them was to my side trying to put his genitals in my mouth. I remember lifting my arm and it felt so heavy to lift my arm,” she says. “I went to go stand up and my pants were down around my ankles so I fell down.”
She claims to have blacked out again and when she woke up, the two men were allegedly both performing sexual acts on her.
“I went to stand up and said I was going to be sick,” her post online reads. “I don’t remember but they must have moved me to the bathroom because I woke up by the toilet alone.”
A third man was employed by Engel & Volkers and working for them at the time of another allegation. Engel & Volkers severed ties with him last Friday once the allegations surfaced online.
In that case, the woman (whose identity is also being protected) claims to have been invited to a luxurious mansion on Beach Drive and was allegedly sexually assaulted by a “wealthy” real estate agent while attending a party.
“It was around 9 p.m. and I was not drunk at all. The next recollection I have is around 5 a.m. and I am being picked up off the laundry/bathroom floor (the same one I was pulled into and groped) and someone is pulling up my pants and doing them up,” reads a post on social media.
She claims to have been carried out to a waiting cab as she “could not walk.”
“To this day, I know that I was drugged,” the post continues. “I had the forensic exam done at the hospital.”
The woman says she was violated and victimized and she's speaking out now.
“It’s really scary to think about. I wouldn’t want that to happen to anyone else, ever," she says. "I didn’t have a voice. I was so blacked out… I couldn’t fight back, I couldn’t do anything. I had no voice. This is how I can take that power back to have a voice.
"This is my truth.”
A fourth Victoria real estate agent was fired after allegations were also posted online.
"We can confirm that he is no longer associated with our firm and had relinquished his listings at our request after the first allegation last week," says brokerage co-owner Susan Froher, in a statement from Prime Real Estate Team and Remax Island Properties. "He also surrendered his licence to us."
Glacier Media has confirmed that the other three men have had their licences surrendered to the Real Estate Council of BC (RECBC), by their managing brokers.
“As a result, they cannot provide real estate services to consumers,” says spokesperson Warren Mirko. “Please note: this is different than a licence suspension, which is a disciplinary sanction and part of RECBC’s investigation and discipline process.”
In an email, both Saanich Police and Victoria Police say they cannot comment if an investigation is ongoing.
“We can only confirm an investigation is being conducted when there’s an investigative purpose or a clear risk to the public,” says Bowen Osoko, spokesperson for Victoria Police.
“We are only able to confirm an investigation is ongoing if there is an investigative purpose or if there is a risk to public safety,” says Const. Markus Anastasiades with Saanich Police.
Ropponen says it is important that people are talking about these incidents.
“When we talk about these things, we can start seeing a culture shift. This is really about changing attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that contribute to gender-based violence,” she says. “What is at the root of gender-based violence is inequality and we have to change that so we can end sexualized violence so this never happens to anybody again.”
Since the allegations surfaced online the community has offered support to the women through a GoFundMe fundraiser. The campaign has raised more than $128,000, which will go toward the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre.
Counselling for the women is also being paid for by The Agency.
The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre says they are available to support people and reporting can happen whenever the individual is ready.
“We really believe it is up to a survivor to decide if they want to report so what we do is we give information and options,” says Ropponen, noting the centre's services are free and confidential.
Both Victoria Police and Saanich Police encourage anyone who wants to report sexualized violence to call their Report Desk at 250-995-7654, extension 1 or at 250-475-4321 for Saanich Police.
— with a file from Times Colonist