Statement from Denise Christopherson, CEO, on allegations of sexual misconduct in the Hamilton restaurant industry

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On behalf of the entire team at YWCA Hamilton, I would like to address recent reports in the Hamilton Spectator highlighting serious sexual misconduct allegations against the owner of Mezcal restaurant, and against a former Hess Village bar owner.

First, I’d like to categorically state that we stand with all who have come forward to share their stories. We believe and support all survivors of sexual violence and harassment.  We also stand alongside those people who haven’t felt safe to share their stories, or who have chosen not to come forward.

This is an important moment of reckoning in our community. It is our hope that the investigative reporting by Susan Clairmont has helped expose the violence and harassment that was not only perpetrated in these particular workplaces, but permeates so many aspects of our day-to-day lives.

These articles confirm the prevalence of rape culture – a culture where fear, silence, and complacency enables perpetrators to victimize multiple people over extended periods of time, repeating the same acts, in the same places, without disruption.  Those responsible need to be held accountable. Women, gender-diverse people, and men have the right to live free of violence and harassment.

Several years ago, YWCA Hamilton had briefly affiliated with Mezcal as one of many employment placements for the SISTER program. Two SISTER participants had an interview at Mezcal, but the YWCA Employment team choose not to proceed with any placements because the interviews were not handled professionally by the restaurant. At the time, we were not aware of any allegations of sexual violence or harassment. However, we determined that Mezcal would not be a suitable place of employment for our clients. Since the Spectator article was released, we have reached out to the former participants who attended the interviews to check in.

Statistics tell us that one in two women will experience gender-based violence in their lifetime. Disproportionately, women of colour, Black women, Indigenous women, women with disabilities, and trans women are more often the targets of gender based violence. While the #MeToo movement has brought much-needed attention to these realities, hearing these stories of violence over and over again while facing the day-to-day risks of being a target is painful. Too often, it requires survivors to relive difficult memories and fears from their own experiences.

During these times, we need to take care of ourselves and others. If you, or anyone you know, has experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment and needs support, please reach out to SACHA, one of our community partners. SACHA offers a 24-hour support line available at 905.525.4162, and can provide support during the reporting process and access to anonymous reporting.

In Solidarity,

Denise Christopherson
CEO, YWCA Hamilton

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