Sexual assault victim speaks out

  • Speaking out: the #MeToo movement has empowered victims of sexual assault to come forward

    Speaking out: the #MeToo movement has empowered victims of sexual assault to come forward

There was one compelling reason why Miss X, who did not wish to be identified, went to the police after she was sexually assaulted by her boss — her daughter.

Reluctant to publicly relive the “terrifying” attack, which took place one evening almost six years ago and led her to quit her job, the former security guard was persuaded by her child’s father to report the assault.

Miss X said he told her: “You’ve got a daughter yourself. You don’t want anything to happen to her and if this happened to her, you would want her to speak up, so if you don’t want to speak up for yourself, speak up for her.”

Miss X did, and Quinton Neil Francis was found guilty of sexual assault in 2014 after a Magistrates’ Court trial in which he maintained his innocence.

He was sentenced to two years’ probation and a $3,000 fine.

The 44-year-old later accepted liability when Miss X took her case to the Human Rights Commission and Francis has now been ordered to pay her $12,000 in damages for injury to feelings.

SAS Protection Services, the company he co-owned at the time of the assault and is understood to still work for, must also pay her $7,000 after an HRC tribunal found the firm lacked appropriate procedures to deal with allegations of sexual harassment.

The only person in management who spoke to Miss X about what happened was Francis, who was her boss and her assailant.

Miss X’s voice was strong and unwavering when she described the way Francis put her into a headlock as they patrolled the deserted Horizons property together on August 18, 2012.

He forced her into an isolated cottage, held her arm down on a love seat and then pulled her shirt over her head with “one yank” before he pulled her bra cup aside and exposed her breast.

“I was scared that he was going to do the unthinkable, that he was going to go that far,” Miss X said. “I wondered what I was going to tell my family, my child and why this was happening to me?”

Her voice only broke when she mentioned her daughter and she cried when she described how she stayed strong during the criminal trial, as Francis’s family members watched from the public gallery while she gave evidence.

Miss X said: “I kept my daughter in mind.”

She was approached by The Royal Gazette to tell her story as women around the world detail their experiences of sexual assault and harassment in the #MeToo movement.

That global conversation, sparked by revelations about disgraced Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, put the spotlight on men in power who abuse their positions and about the need for a cultural shift to allow victims to be heard and believed.

Francis’s assault on Miss X was an isolated one and she said she recognised it could have been far worse.

She became emotional again when she described the impact of his actions and the fact that no day goes by when she does not think about what he did.

“Even though it just went as far as exposing a breast, to know that you didn’t allow somebody to invade your privacy like that, it’s just devastating,” Miss X said.

“You don’t have permission to do that and you force yourself and you couldn’t understand the word no, and you are a grown man.

“To know that you are a grown man yourself, with daughters — how would you feel if this was happening to your child?”

The attack on Miss X ended after she swore at Francis.

The pair briefly continued their patrol as darkness fell, although Miss X felt “very frightened” that he might assault her again.

She said: “The only thing he said to me was ‘why is your shirt out of place?’ and I said ‘I wonder the f*** why?’.

“He didn’t say nothing, just gave a little smirk.”

Miss X said Francis’s criminal conviction gave her relief because it meant somebody believed her.

However, his sentence did little to give her closure, just as the award of $19,000 in damages, a figure reached based on the “aggressiveness of the physical contact and the vulnerability of the victim”, is only money.

She has yet to receive payment.

Miss X said: “It doesn’t take away the emotional pain that you’ve been through. I’ve still got to deal with that on a day-to-day basis. It’s 2018 and I’m still dealing with it.”

She is one of a tiny number of victims of sexual assault who come forward and are prepared to give evidence in court every year.

In all jurisdictions, the incidence of crime far exceeds the incidence of reporting.

In Bermuda, said Miss X, being part of such a small community makes it hard.

Even other women, relatives and colleagues of Francis, have shunned her for coming forward.

Miss X said: “It is a small island. I don’t like to be talked about, so for somebody to know it was me, I didn’t want all that.”

Despite that, she said she was glad she went to court and glad she pursued her HRC complaint.

She alleged at the tribunal and Francis accepted that he discriminated against her human rights by abusing his position of authority for the purpose of sexually harassing her.

Miss X said: “I would honestly say if it’s happening to you or even if it’s just been once, speak up.

“Your voice can be heard. You can be helping the next person to be brave and to come up and say something, because it may not just be you in that predicament, it may be another individual.

“And by you just speaking up, it will give that strength to the next person.”

The Royal Gazette had a brief telephone conversation with Francis yesterday.

He said: “None of you know the truth. Write what you want to write.”

It was not possible to contact anyone at SAS Protection Services.

Sara-Ann Tucker, lawyer for Francis and SAS during the HRC proceedings, said in an e-mail she was unable to comment.

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Published Jan 19, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 18, 2018 at 11:40 pm)

Sexual assault victim speaks out

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