Kudos to Claudia Cavaliere for speaking out and asking for justice. Sexual harassment should never have to be part of one's job or something you have to put up with. We all have the right to safe working conditions #CanLab— Farrah Khan (@farrah_khan) May 7, 2018
A massage therapist in Canada was sexually harassed by a client, but while filing a complaint with the police, all the officer did was make her feel uncomfortable.
What's worse, he even tried to discourage her from filing a report, asserting that she was being “emotional.”
Claudia Cavaliere, 20, a registered massage therapist from Montreal, was massaging a middle-aged man when he started acting inappropriately. He ultimately masturbated in front of her without saying anything. After the incident, he asked her for a tissue.
In shock, she just stood there.
"I didn't know what to do. I just froze," she said
"I couldn't speak. I was hyperventilating. I was crying. I was sitting on the floor in the corner of the room, panicking," she added.
She was eventually able to step out of the room, where she found a colleague who intervened and got the client to leave the spa.
While still shaken after the ordeal, the real shock happened later at a Kirkland department of Montreal’s police. Cavaliere said she arrived at the department to file an official complaint. But instead of support and a promise to do all in their power to help, all she got was judgment and sexist claims.
"He was like, 'Well, you know, you have to get ready to appear in court. Do you really want to do that?'" she said. "Of course I want to do this. My safety is at risk, and other massage therapists' safety is at risk, and other women's safety is at risk.… Nobody is safe if people are walking in the streets thinking it's OK to have this kind of behavior in a public space."
He then allegedly went on to say that what she had experienced was not a big deal, and that it was just “part of the business.” He also told her that the incident was not considered a sexual offense and that no “harsh punishment” would come out of it.
"There's a lot of weirdos out there," the officer told her. "I'm saying, be prepared to have weirdos. You will have weirdos. That's the nature of the business. Unfortunately, that's what happens. I just don't want you to get emotional because you have weirdos out there."
Furthermore, the officer said that since her spa was on a road with “a lot of happy endings,” she should expect this to happen.
Feeling uncomfortable and mistreated, Cavaliere said she recorded some of the exchange with the officer.
Cavaliere, who later learned that her assailant had given the spa a fake name and that he had not used the facility’s parking lot, took the form with her without filing the complaint. She said that the conversation with the officer made her rethink the entire situation.
"There was a part of me that said, 'No, I shouldn't go back. What's the point of going back? They're never going to catch this guy. I should just try to forget it,'" she said.
Rita Acosta, who is part of the Movement Against Rape and Incest, said that the officer’s behavior was just despicable. Unfortunately, she added, it’s also common.
Cavaliere eventually returned to the station where she told another officer her spa's security camera had collected footage of the man.
"All he had to say was, 'This is not your fault,'" she said. "He took the time to ask me questions. In my head, I'm thinking, 'This is an amazing cop.' But then again, he's not an amazing cop — he's a cop who is doing his job, who clearly knows what he's doing. He clearly knows how to help people and not leave people feeling unsafe."
In order to help keep their employees safe, the owners of Cavaliere’s spa are requiring photo identification for any new massage clients. And a local police inspector, Ian Lafrenière, is urging the massage therapist to file a complaint with the police ethics commission.
"It's scary to think that when someone is crying for help, no one is doing anything," Cavaliere said. "They're just putting it off, saying, you know, it's part of your job. They're kind of allowing it to happen."
It’s heartbreaking to see women in danger being treated like this. Unfortunately, with so many cases of assault and abuse surfacing lately, we’ve learned that women are often dismissed, and their stories are forgotten or ignored, allowing attackers to continue preying on others.
It's time that authorities take better care of victims so future attacks can be prevented.
Banner/thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon