A culture of institutionalised sexism within the Cayman Brac Fire Department led a firefighter to believe he could sexually assault a female colleague with impunity, a prosecutor claimed this week.
In a case that has raised serious questions about leadership failures within the Cayman Islands Fire Service, Dorian Hunter was sentenced to 18 months jail Monday on four counts of indecent assault between November and December 2006.
Hunter’s crimes included forcing his victim to give him oral sex in the station’s bathroom, fondling her breasts in the station’s control room, kissing her on the neck during a training drill and pinning her to the ground in a roadside sexual assault.
Sentencing the 26-year-old, Grand Court Justice Charles Quin said other officers also subjected the woman to humiliating and degrading treatment at the station, which was descried during the trial as a ‘very unpleasant place for women to work.’
Crown Counsel John Masters described a culture of ‘disrespect and hostility’ toward women at the station, that made Hunter ‘arrogant’ that he would not be called to task for his actions.
At one point Hunter forced the woman to pose in a picture topless, which he then gave to one of his superiors.
When the victim finally came forward about the assaults, she was treated as an outcast by both the Cayman Brac community and the fire service, she said in a victim impact statement read to the court.
‘I was told that I was crazy; I was making up stories. I was told I was the one that was making advances on Hunter. It went as far as I was told that I was a lesbian,’ she said.
‘The other officers at the fire station treated me as an outcast; they isolated me from a lot of interaction with them. The fire officers had no respect for me and they did not hide their feelings.’
After a period of self harm that finally culminated in a suicide attempt, the woman began counselling and moved to Grand Cayman.
But the situation was not much better working at the fire department there, forcing her to quit as a fire-fighter. ‘I was forced to leave the job I loved so much,’ she said.
Justice Quin said it was ‘ironic’ that the victim was prevented from pursuing her chosen career at a time when Cayman was celebrating the achievements of women with the recent Heroes Day celebration.
When first questioned about the assaults, Hunter denied having had anything to do with the woman, saying she looked ‘too masculine’ and was unattractive.
He later admitted lying to police, claiming he didn’t want his wife to find out.
Hunter maintained throughout the trial the acts were consensual, adding ‘She is a woman and I am a man. What do you want me to do?’
The first incident, which attracted a six-month jail term, happened in the station’s control room, where Hunter put his hand down the victim’s top and fondled her breasts.
Afterward, Hunter followed the victim, blocked her path, pulled her blouse over her head and took the picture of her breasts, later giving the image to a station manager he was friendly with, who kept the picture.
Hunter said he gave it to the station officer because he didn’t want his wife to find the image and because they planned to use it as evidence against the woman if she ever made allegations against anyone at the station, he said.
But the judge described Hunter’s behaviour as ‘brazen and arrogant’, adding he had no problem boasting and showing off about what he had done.
The second charge, which attracted a three-month prison term, came after Hunter kissed the victim on the neck while in a fire truck on a training exercise.
The third – and most serious, according to the judge – related to the oral sex incident in the station bathroom and drew an 18-month prison sentence.
The victim said she knocked on the bathroom door and entered after hearing no response. Hunter was naked inside and grabbed her by the hair, forcing her to give him oral sex. Hunter then warned her not to ever mention the incident, saying no one would believe what she said.
Hunter first denied anything happened in the bathroom, but said in court that the victim offered him oral sex when he walked in on her in the bathroom.
Hunter was originally charged with rape over the fourth incident, which happened by the side of the road after the victim pulled over to help a person she thought was in distress.
When she realised it was Hunter, she ran way, but Hunter gave chase, pinned her to the ground and sexually assaulted her, before fleeing into bushes when he heard an approaching car, she said.
The judge said he could not convict Hunter of rape because of a lack of evidence of whether the victim was sexually penetrated. He instead convicted the defendant of indecent assault, imposing 12 months jail.
The judge ordered that the prison sentences run concurrently, with time already served in custody to be deducted from the sentence. With parole, it could mean Hunter’s term is done before the year’s end.
As the woman noted in her victim impact statement, her recovery could take years.
‘Mentally and physically I am destroyed, as even now I would not like to be in a room with a male alone,’ she stated.
‘I do not run jokes with anyone anymore in any capacity as I do not want it to be said that I instigated any kind of unpleasant advances on me.
‘I will never be the same person I was before these incidents,’ she said. ‘I am getting better but it is an extremely slow process.’
Defence Attorney John Furniss said Hunter was a family man with previous good character before the incidents and would now lose his job.