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article imageLesbian employee at York University assaulted Special

By KJ Mullins     Apr 8, 2011 in Crime
Toronto - Going to the washroom shouldn't be a frightening experience but for one York University employee that act lead to an assault Tuesday night. Valerie Bustros was attacked by three men when she tried to use the ladies room at York University's Ab pub.
The Tuesday night attack happened after a man approached Bustros, questioning her gender as she went to the ladies room. She told the man that she was a lesbian and a woman. The man then pushed Valerie. The altercation escalated with two more men aiding the man who punched and kicked the young woman.
York University security were called and arrived at the scene after Bustros' attacker had left. They stayed with the young woman for a short time but left to deal with a fire alarm. At that point, Toronto Police were called and took a statement from Bustros. The police also obtained security tapes from the incident.
In a phone interview, Bustros said she works on campus at the Underground. She is still shaken from Tuesday's attack but is continuing to work on campus.
"I have had my gender questioned in the past on a regular basis but Tuesday night was the only time I have ever been assaulted," she said.
Bustros said other staff stayed with her until the Toronto Police arrived Tuesday night, although the security staff had to leave because of a fire alarm.
"York University's security guards are good but there are only a few guards on duty at any given time," she said. "The campus is very isolated and things can happen. We need more security."
The security guards were at the right place at the right time; they intervened, stopping the assault in its tracks. Bustros said it is likely they heard the loud altercation.
Asked how she feels about being on campus, Bustros said, "I'm a bit jumpy but I am doing good. I have great people around me. The response from the community has been so overwhelming in a positive way."
Tuesday's attack is not a first for York's Keele campus. Women students have been the victims of several sexual assaults.
At the beginning of the school year, Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC) released a series of recommendations prompted by students asking for a campus safety audit.
"York must issue a statement condemning the incident and comply with the Toronto Police to find the assailants and sanction them," said Alastair Woods, External Coordinator for the Trans Bisexual Lesbian Gays Allies at York (TBLGAY). "The students want to see measures in place to prevent such attacks and this includes a timeline for implementation of the METRAC recommendations."
York University President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri issued the following statement concerning the incident:
"I was deeply disturbed and upset to learn that a member of our community reported being verbally and physically assaulted this week at Winters Absinthe pub. This reported assault is distressing to all of us. York University Security Services responded quickly to the incident and offered counselling and medical treatment to the community member. In addition, our security services are cooperating with Toronto Police Service in their investigation.
"This incident serves as a reminder that we must work together, each of us, to find ways to ensure this never happens again. I can assure you that we will not tolerate any actions or forms of speech that advocate violence or hatred.
"As one of Canada’s largest universities, nowhere is inclusion and tolerance more important than here at York. With such an incredibly diverse community, it is essential to recognize and respect the different beliefs that exist within our University. Together, our responsibility is to embrace our shared differences – be it sexual orientation, race, faith, age or gender – and to condemn those who deny our members their fundamental rights.
"York University is committed to ensuring a productive, safe and peaceful learning environment for everyone. These principles are the basis of University policies and regulations, and individuals have a responsibility to uphold them for the sake of the entire York community. York is implementing the recommendations of the METRAC report. We will continue to work with the Toronto Police Service, our Centre for Human Rights, our student groups, University committees, and the broader community to minimize the possibility of future incidents. Students, families, University employees, and community members deserve and expect a safe environment, and we must all work together to create one. "
A public community meeting will be held in the TBLGAY space to address the issues of homophobic violence on Friday, April 8 at 6:30pm. A statement has been released by TBLGAY, York Federation of Students, Glendon College Student Union and York Positive Space condemning this act of violence and can be read at www.yfs.ca.
More about Assault, Valerie Bustros, Lesbian, York University
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