A vacation to the sunny south took a dark and ugly turn for one Canadian woman, who claims she was raped by a bartender at a Dominican Republic resort.
The 24-year-old woman, whose identity we have chosen not to reveal, was on a trip with a friend to the RIU Republica in Punta Cana last month. After an afternoon foam party on the resort property, she went searching for her roommate when she claims she was forced into a bathroom stall by a hotel staff member.
“He grabbed me and laid me down on the floor, then I asked him again ‘can you please stop’ and yelled,” she said. “He grabbed my throat again and my mouth, he started to kiss me and touch me, pulled down my bikini bottom and that’s when he raped me.”
The woman says she took her case to resort staff, who ultimately provided her with assistance. But she was left astonished by what she heard from other resort patrons later that week. Four other women had allegedly been sexually assaulted on the same premises by different men. In at least one case, the suspect was allegedly also a resort employee.
“When I learned that, and I knew that I was the only one who reported it, I was shocked,” she said.
Sunwing, which operates tours to RIU Resorts exclusively for Canadian customers, tells CityNews they have not been informed of any incidents of sexual misconduct on the property aside from this victim.
“We are aware of an incident that allegedly took place on May 10th at RIU Republica in the Dominican Republic,” Sunwing told CityNews in a statement.
“Based on our reports from our destination representatives, the customer notified hotel management of the incident and immediate action was taken to remove the employee from the premises. As soon as we were informed of the situation, we provided her with onsite assistance and our representatives accompanied her to the police station to file a report. We have been in touch with the customer since her return and remain in contact with the hotel about the incident. To the best of our knowledge, the matter is now with the local authorities and the accused employee has since been terminated. We understand that RIU Hotels & Resorts adheres to strict employment hiring practices in the Dominican Republic whereby all new hires are subject to a police background check. Security and safety of our customers is paramount and we are taking this unfortunate situation very seriously.”
The tour company says it’s troubled by reports of other incidents happening at the property that same week, and they’re asking people with information to formally report them.
Meanwhile Global Affairs tells CityNews it is aware and “deeply concerned with a report of sexual assault on a Canadian citizen in the Dominican Republic.”
In the last five years, they say 48 cases related to any assaults, including sexual assaults, were reported in the Dominican Republic.
CityNews has been unable to get in contact with Punta Cana Police. RIU Resorts and the specific hotel have yet to respond to our questions.
Update: This story was published on June 2. RIU responded on June 7. The full statement from spokesperson Yvonne Swiezawski can be seen below:
Please apologize for our late response and thank you for contacting RIU Hotels in order to know our version regarding this matter. The facts that you are describing are extremely serious. Out of respect for our customers, we never diffuse information about possible claims. What we can tell you for sure, is that RIU takes the safety of its guests very seriously and that sexual harassment and any behavior that could annoy them is not tolerated under any circumstance.
There is no record of other criminal claims related to cases of sexual harassment as you mention. For your information, any claim of harassment or incident in our hotels are investigated with the same diligence and all necessary legal measures are taken in collaboration with the pertinent authorities.