In May of 2009, I started as a fourth-class constable. As a rookie officer, you notice the challenges of policing early on in a busy division. I noticed there was a lot of sexual innuendo. But I was busy, young, and I had so much to learn, so I didn’t really have time to think about those things. I learned to put them aside.
I made complaints before to my superiors and colleagues after seeing the treatment of our colleagues, in particular the sexual harassment and the racial violence that were part of our everyday. But policing is a very male-dominant, toxic environment. For example, there would be flyers of missing persons that were posted around the station and some of the police officers would scribble racist comments on them, or next to pictures of suspects. Booking hall is where you bring up prisoners that you hold overnight or take people’s fingerprints and there would be pornographic magazines lying around.
Over the years, the sexual harassment was very constant. Then I was sexually assaulted in 2014 by one of the detectives I respected and trusted. He was going through a really hard time with his boss, so I invited him to my place after work for coffee to chat about the issues we were facing. As I poured the coffee, I turned around to put the cup down and that’s when he grabbed me, squeezed me, and shoved his tongue down my throat. This experience really changed my perspective of how I viewed my colleagues and men in general.
Another time in 2014, I was driving home after my shift. One of my colleagues saw me, then called and asked for a ride home because he was drunk. I agreed and picked him and another colleague he was out with up. I was on their balcony for a few minutes, chatting about work and travel. The other colleague then asked me if I wanted to have sex with him. I said no. He then said, “What’s the matter? You don’t like white guys?” I got up to walk away. He walked beside me, then got ahead of me and blocked the exit. He said, “If you don’t fuck us both tonight then I am going to tell everyone at work that you fucked us.” I turned to look at the other officer in disbelief, hoping he would protect me. He was laughing, then he said, “Show us your tits, then.” I thought of a million things in that split second. I moved around him and quickly exited the apartment.
As I was driving off, the first colleague called me, trying to get me to come back. The man who made the comment about white men earlier was talking to me as if he had planned the entire night—he had lied about drinking, so that I would go to their home so they could sexually assault me.
In 2018, the same officer sent a message to the group chat asking about my vagina. He compared my vagina to a black woman’s: “Is her vagina Brillo-y like a black chick’s?”
Another time, a detective asked if I was a Muzzie. I told him I didn’t know what that meant. He goes, “Muzzie, a Muslim.” Everybody’s laughing. People are like, “I’m gonna call you Muzzie from now on.” I just turned around and walked out because I thought, “If I explode right now and say something, I’m going to be the one getting harassed.”
In 2018, I was starting to really feel affected mentally, physically. I realized I couldn’t be in that environment. All the things I’d always reported on fell on deaf ears and things had only gotten worse.
I saw how this atmosphere psychologically and physically affects women/victims in the long run, how it prevents them from progressing and becoming better officers because you’re constantly in fear, constantly fighting. That’s what it was like, not just for me, but for my female colleagues and for other racialized officers.
I am now fighting publicly. I’ve been speaking at a very big cost to my life—my career and my personal safety have been compromised. I’ve taken a huge hit by speaking out, but I just didn’t see any other way to fight this institution, to make change.
My intention was to make those people who think that policing is safe for women to understand that it’s not. Still, there have been things that came out of this that were great, because it’s brought me to a point where I have built a community of people and I’m building some kind of hope out of this, but it’s hard.