|Karen finally woke up naked and drugged in a strange room in the Dominican Republic, with three of her kidnappers asleep nearby. As quietly as she could, she found her clothes and ran for her life.
The 38-year-old Mississauga waitress had gone on holiday to an all-inclusive Dominican Republic resort, looking for some fun and sun and a chance to get away from her problems. Instead, she says she was kidnapped from a bar in Puerto Plata, drugged, robbed and raped on her last night in the country.
“I don’t want anybody to go through what I went through,” says Karen, explaining why she is coming forward. “People need to be told.”
She has just come from her appointment at Trillium Health Centre where she sees a sexual assault counsellor at least once a week since returning traumatized last month from her holiday. She is also on antiretroviral medication until bloodwork can confirm whether she contracted HIV or not from her attackers.
“I’m just really lucky to be alive,” says Karen, who doesn’t want her last name used.
On the last night of their trip, Karen and a male friend decided to go off the resort and into town. They figured they’d have some drinks, do some last-minute souvenir shopping and head back to pack for their noon flight the next day.
Karen insists that she made a point of dressing down that night so as not to draw attention, with a baggy shirt and cheap shell jewelry, but thinks it was in vain. “I’m bubbly, I’m white, I have big boobs,” she says with a shrug.
At one bar, she says her pal made the mistake of buying a drink for one of the local girls. When they went to leave, the girl’s friends demanded money from him for chatting her up. They ended up being chased out, she says, and they headed to another drinking hole down the street. Karen doesn’t know if what followed was in retaliation for the altercation or not related at all.
She’d gone to the bar’s small washroom, she says, when suddenly about eight local men pushed their way in.
“One of them stuck me with a needle in my right arm,” she recalls. “I head-butted one of them — I wasn’t going down without a fight.”
But she was no match for them. She says they dragged her out through a back door and put her on a motorcycle between two of the men.
That’s the last thing she remembers.
She woke up groggy in a bed without her clothes on, her arms bruised and a chunk of her hair cut from the back of her head. Her cheap jewelry was gone as was $100 US and the digital camera she’d had on her belt.
Once she snuck away from the village room, she ran screaming down the road until she hitched a ride with a local man who took her to a police station.
It’s a harrowing tale, but Karen admits she has no “paperwork” to back it up. She left the country without filing a police report. She says it was just hours until her flight and she was so anxious to get home that she refused to wait for an English-speaking officer to take her statement.
She also admits she should have been more wary. “I thought I was tough. I’ve travelled around the world by myself and I’ve been to Third World countries,” she says. “I was naive to go without researching anything. Most people just think holiday and fun in the sun.”
While there is no official warning against travelling to the Dominican, the Canadian government does advise tourists to “exercise a high degree of caution, due to a high crime rate.”
Last New Year’s Eve, a Quebec man was murdered in his hotel room during a robbery.
The Canadian website goes on to warn that crime in the Caribbean country has increased and that single women should be especially careful. “Incidents of assault, rape and sexual aggression against foreigners have been reported, including at beach resorts,” it says. “There have been reports of females being victimized with ‘date rape’ drugs.”
Those are clear cautions, but Karen believes travel agents also have a responsibility to warn their customers. “They need to tell people,” she insists. “You can’t pretend it’s Walt Disney World there. It’s not. They should be telling people it’s dangerous to leave the resort. I didn’t know any better.”
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See photo of raped woman here