Former U of O student, Ayham Aloulabi, to appear in court to face sexual assault charges laid in 2015

A man has been arrested in relation to sexual assault charges in the case of former University of Ottawa student Mélodie Morin, which were laid in absentia in January 2016 after the alleged assailant left the country.

Ottawa police confirmed that 27-year-old Ayham Aloulabi was arrested on Aug. 10 at the Ottawa International Airport.

Aloulabi’s court date is scheduled for Aug. 22, where he will face charges of sexual assault and overcoming resistance by attempting to choke. Aloulabi was released from police custody on Aug. 10 on a promise to appear in court. None of the allegations made against him have been proven in court.

The arrest comes almost one year after Morin went public with allegations that she was sexually assaulted by another student near the U of O campus. Morin also alleged that she was told by detectives handling her case that charges would not be laid because the alleged perpetrator “thought it was consensual,” and Morin “was just playing hard to get.”

After an open letter published on Facebook about the case gained traction, Ottawa police responded with a statement that said a second-level review by a Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit supervisor “determined that the conclusions of the investigator may have been premature, as not all investigative avenues had been exhausted.”

 

Balancing investigation focus with mental health and wellness needs

In an interview with the Fulcrum on Aug. 12, Morin said that while the university was helpful in investigating the avenues by which they could discipline the alleged perpetrator, she alleged that they failed to inform her of basic, on-campus resources for survivors of sexual violence, such as the Women’s Resource Centre and Student Academic Success Service’s free counselling service.

“To have access to all those things, I’m the one that kind of had to research it, I had to tell myself ‘I wonder if they have counselling on campus,’ and then research it. And oh, ‘I wonder if there’s a women’s centre on campus,’ and then research it,” she said.

“There’s no one who actually showed me or told me that all these resources were available to me.”

In an email to the Fulcrum, media relations manager Néomie Duval said that sexual violence support is a shared responsibility at the U of O.

“Protection Services and the Human Rights Office work together to ensure our students receive the support they need for any situation they face,” she said.

Duval also noted that the university launched a support website for sexual violence in September 2015, which “offers students and employees a one stop shop to all the resources, policies and information available on campus.”

Section 1 of the recently implemented U of O sexual assault policy states that part of the policy’s purpose is to “provide information about supports and services available at the University and in the community and to ensure follow-up once a report is made to the University.” In addition, section 5.6 of the new policy lists out the on-campus services available to survivors.

 

Establishing protocol for profs to accommodate survivors

According to Morin, following the alleged assault, she was told by professors that they had never had a case like hers happen before, and that they “don’t quite know how to deal with this problem.”

She also noted that while the doctor following her case gave her a note to be excused from classes and exams for three weeks, one of her profs expected her to write missed exams on her first day back in school.

“I was supposed to take those three weeks to recover, not to study for an exam. I was supposed to take those three weeks to sleep, I was supposed to take those three weeks to literally recover, to go to a therapist,” Morin said.

“I was on so many medications that I was literally intoxicated … there’s no way that in those three weeks I would’ve been able to study for an exam.”

Morin believes that the U of O campus would benefit from a program to ensure that profs are more sensitive to issues faced by student survivors of sexual violence.

“I think there should be some kind of group at the U of O that literally helps teachers know how to deal with cases like these, what they should do when things like this happen,” she said. “They should help the teachers realize that there might be some things they could change to fit the students better.”

Duval said that, in relation to the adoption of recommendations made by the U of O’s Task Force on Respect and Equality, sexual violence training sessions have been offered to key staff, senior administrative management, deans, and more since June 2015.

 

One year after alleged assault, Morin embraces ‘activist’ role

Morin filed the original incident with the Ottawa police service on September 26, 2015. Now, almost a year later, she said that while the year has been tough she is proud of herself and the impact her story has had on other women.

“I’ve had other women come to me asking for help, I’ve done speeches, I’ve went to events to do speeches, I’ve been able to really get out of my little cocoon and talk about these problems that are going on in society,” said Morin.

“Because of the fact that I’ve been working on this case for so long, not only working on this case but also working on trying to sensitize people, I feel like I became an activist,” she said.

“That actually makes me feel a bit better about what happened to me because I can make something out of it.”

Despite what she said has been a tough experience, Morin remains positive about the prospects for social change in how sexual assault victims are treated. “I think that eventually all of society, we’re going to be able to work together to change those things and really sensitize people about sexual assault.”