I'm not easily offended by off-colour jokes. But like many women in the workforce, I was a victim of sexual harassment. Reluctantly, I became the individual behind a landmark Ontario Human Rights Commission case.
Almost a decade later, however, both the remedies and the monetary reward handed down by the Board of Inquiries have fail to be enforced.
My story began in 1993. As a recent university graduate, I'd been working at the Victoria Tea Company.
Lewd comments from my boss were the order of the day. And behaviour that had escalated from unwanted gifts to numerous attempts at groping and kissing were beginning to take a toll on my emotional and physical health.
Despite his offensive and threatening conduct, the last thing I wanted to do was make waves. Like many victims of harassment, I held myself responsible and attempted to downplay his actions. When he eventually pinned me to the wall and told me no one would blame him, I handed in my letter of resignation and headed to the Human Rights Commission.
Within days I began to question my decision.
Others had faced similar situations and felt no need to file a complaint. Why should I be any different?
Furthermore, I had been threatened. I'm the daughter of a Member of Provincial Parliament, and my boss had made it clear during our last set-to that he would do everything in his power to drag my family's name through the mud - presumably by implying that I was the one making the advances.
The commission's initial response was not encouraging.
In the absence of what she deemed to be sufficient substantiated evidence, the intake officer suggested I drop the case - despite my ability to produce witnesses and the fact that all I was looking for was a letter of apology. I left her office feeling more devastated than when I'd arrived.
When the case was eventually dismissed without a hearing, I was somewhat relieved, since the process had begun to take a toll.
I had been required to hand over personal diaries to the commission and recount my story a number of times, reliving the incidents over and over again.
Accompanying my relief was frustration and disappointment, since a number of women had contacted me during that time to say they, too, had experienced harassment but were afraid to come forward.
The case seemed to be closed - until, by a twist of fate, the commission came across a file documenting another sexual harassment case against my employer dating back to 1989.
All of a sudden, my claims were seen in a different light.
When my former employer was informed that my case was being reinvestigated, he was livid, firing off a number of offensive letters to the commission and threatening civil suits against all the witnesses who said they would testify on my behalf.
I was personally served with a $1.5 million libel suit claiming injury to his reputation. It was eventually thrown out.
Halfway through the hearing, my former employer, who was defending himself, stopped attending altogether.
In the end, he was found guilty of sexual harassment and solicitation and ordered to pay over $50,000 in damages, the highest monetary award ever handed down by the commission in a sexual harassment complaint. That was in 2000.
But three years later, I've yet to see a penny.
When last I checked with the commission, I was told that it was having a hard time tracking his assets, although his business remained open.
On May 29, 2003, Alex Torimiro died of a heart attack at the age of 51. The obit in the Star said he was a loving father who would be missed by a daughter as well as several nephews, nieces and cousins.
To all those involved, the case is now officially closed. But for me it will never end.