- Several women across Montreal are reporting similar cases of sexual harassment and assault.
- A man claiming to be a photography student asking to take pictures for a school project is inappropriately physical, they say.
- These are their stories.
An anonymous Facebook post has resulted in countless women coming forward to share their experiences of sexual harassment across several Montreal boroughs.
This article contains descriptions of sexual harassment, which may trigger some readers. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, call the Centre pour les victimes d'agression sexuelle de Montréal (CVASM) at 514-934-4504 or find them online here.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time I've been tasked with writing about female harassment in Montreal, sexual or otherwise.
Just five months ago, countless women came forward to share their strange and unsettling stories of men attempting to lure them away from campus in what seemed to have been a well-crafted ring of "pick-up artists."
It is, perhaps in part, the strategic and devised schemes of these alleged predators that make them so very unsettling to think about.
This time, the man in question is using the guise of a photography project to lure women into a photoshoot with him. He then proceeds to get physical with them to the point of molestation, say several of the women who have spoken with MTL Blog.
The initial Facebook post was written by an anonymous woman who created a fake account in order to share her experience with other women in Montreal and to warn students to be wary.
MTL Blog has since been in contact with Amber, who has asked to remain anonymous. The redacted piece above provides physical descriptors that Amber requested we leave out, though we can say that she is a visible minority.
Her encounter with the man, she writes, occurred in "broad daylight" on ave. du Parc. After taking a few headshots, he became physical, moving her arms above her head and "massaging her" in "progressively intimate areas," including her inner thigh and crotch.
After Amber shared her experience, another woman named Rebecca Pearse came forward to share a frighteningly similar experience in the Côtes-des-Neiges neighbourhood.
Rebecca then quickly began to gather more information from other women that were commenting and reaching out privately to say that they, too, had been approached by this man.
As they spoke, it became clear that the description of the man was the same. Rebecca was certain after reading Amber's post that they had met the same individual.
"Upon seeing Amber's photo, I can confirm it is," Rebecca told MTL Blog.
It wasn't long before comments were pouring in from women who had simply been approached, photographed or worse.
Rebecca shared her description of the man with MTL Blog.
"He was black, about 6'3" with short hair, a broad physique, and wearing a dark vest-jacket and trousers. He stopped me and asked if he could take my portrait for a project he was working on about ethnic diversity in Montreal. He explained he was a photography student at UdeM and it would only take 5 minutes and he'd be very grateful."
Rebecca, Amber and the other women who have come forward all say the man becomes physical after claiming to want to make his subjects "less tense."
"He then moved my hair away from my neck and pushed down one of the straps of my dress off my shoulder because apparently, it was in the way. All of this was without asking my permission."
Another detail that is consistent across these experiences is the man's quick shift in demeanour once the women decide they're no longer comfortable and want to leave.
In her account, Rebecca explains:
"I finally say that I'm leaving whether he likes it or not, among further protests from him and saying 'don't be selfish.' His demeanour has completely changed. His eyes are hard and he is no longer smiling or grateful and I just really sensed I should leave the situation."
Amber says she eventually managed to stop the man and firmly tell him no. She also asked to see the pictures of the other women.
"They're all white, but they all have the same pose. Arm up above their head."
In the comments under these Facebook posts, women say they have encountered this man in several neighbourhoods across the city.
In every case, the man seems to offer a fake name.
Amber indicates that he lied to her no less than twice in the short time she was with him, first calling himself Lamacar and saying he was from Senegal, and then later telling her his name was Jake and giving her a fake e-mail address.
Amber* has spoken with the SPVM about her experience and Rebecca reported the incident to McGill campus security.
Campus security told her that "a photography teacher would have instructed their students to present their student ID, a project outline and you would have been asked to sign a release for him to use your picture and show it to the class."
We reached out to both the SPVM and McGill campus security about these reports and are awaiting their responses.
If you or someone you know has experienced something like this, please reach out to the SPVM to report the incident.
*This article has been updated.