Alleged sex assault victim details struggles in proposed suit against Toronto school

TORONTO — A former student at an all-boys Catholic school in Toronto alleges in court documents that he endured months of ridicule after being bullied and sexually assaulted by his football teammates, which left him struggling with depression and severe mental health issues.

The teen and his family have detailed their plight publicly for the first time in a motion filed in Ontario’s Superior Court this week after an alleged assault and sexual assault — both involving broom handles — occurred in a locker room last fall at St. Michael’s College School.

The teen alleges teachers, staff and football coaches at the prestigious private school knew or ought to have known about the incidents, but failed to take to take effective action.

“It is difficult to describe the immense amount of pain, suffering, embarrassment and humiliation that both (the teen) and our family have endured since he was the victim of the assaults,” his father wrote in an affidavit filed with the court.

The teen and his parents, who are not named in the documents, say they plan to file a $1.65-million lawsuit against the school, three former students, the board, the Basilian Fathers who run the institution, as well as the coaches and administration.

The allegations contained in the motion have not been proven in court and those named in the proposed lawsuit have not yet responded.

Police launched an investigation last November into allegations of assault and sexual assault at the school that led to charges against seven teens. They relate to allegations of two sexual assaults and one assault involving two victims.

Those incidents made international headlines and sparked a nationwide discussion about bullying at school.

Three of the teens have since pleaded guilty to sex assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon — one also pleaded guilty to making child pornography. Another teen is facing trial next year, while the cases against three others have concluded.

The teen, who is referred to as John Doe, alleges in court documents that he was taunted and bullied from September 2018, when the first incident took place, until mid-November when he withdrew from the school.

In the first incident, the teen, who was a member of a school football team, alleges he was in the locker room when three teammates grabbed him, pinned him to the floor and pulled down his pants. Then, he says, the three boys hit his buttocks “violently” and repeatedly with their hands and then with a broom stick.

Another student filmed the incident on his cellphone, which was shared widely within and outside the school, according to the documents.

Afterward, the documents say, other students taunted him while on campus by saying ”John Doe loves broom.”

The documents allege the ridicule followed him to his hockey games outside school, as opposing players asked him if he “likes brooms” and teens he did not know approached him in his neighbourhood and bullied him about the incidents.

On Oct. 18, the teen said he was approached again by three students after practice. He tried to run away, but they tripped him, the documents say, and then dragged him back across the locker room. The trio pinned him and several students repeatedly inserted a broom handle into his anus, the documents say. The teen yelled in pain.

The incident was again filmed, but soon deleted at the teen’s request, according to the documents.

A few days later, a “diss track” was shared widely on social media that featured a “rap type of dialogue that featured ‘(the teen) loves brooms,’” his father wrote in the affidavit.

On Nov. 13, the teen went to sit down in the cafeteria when someone pulled his chair away. He hit his head on another table and “suffered a laceration to his head that required medical attention.”

“For two months (the teen) dealt with this in silence,” his father wrote.

“He was both embarrassed and scared to talk to anyone about what had happened for fear of repercussions at school. Once he was finally comfortable telling us that he had been bullied and assaulted we were then able to get him some help and remove him from the St. Michael’s environment.”

The teen is seeing a therapist and suffers from anxiety, depression, emotional trauma and insomnia, according to the documents.

“This will be a long journey of healing for him and we are trying to surround (the teen) with the resources he needs,” his father wrote.

The teen has lost friends, his father said, who “somehow blame him for the reputational damage to their school.” Other friends, his dad wrote, are unable to deal with what has happened and those “friendships have suffered.”

“As a family, this past year has crushed the foundation of our home life,” his father wrote in the affidavit. “We have done our best to support (the teen) and be there for him at every step, but the reality is our lives have permanently changed.”

The family is asking court to protect their identities in the upcoming civil suit, and a judge is expected to hear the case on Nov. 4.

The school declined comment and the family has asked for privacy.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2019.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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