Investigations are underway into a January frat party in London, Ont., where several women allege they were drugged and had to be taken to hospital, CBC News has learned.
The house party at Zeta Psi house, located at 116 Mill Street in downtown London, featured an open bar. It was held to celebrate which men would be let into the fraternity, with only Zeta Psi men allowed to attend. Sorority women and their friends were also invited.
One woman told CBC she attended the party and had four or five drinks.
The woman, who didn’t want her name used for fear of retaliation, said friends eventually called an ambulance to take her to hospital because she was incoherent, something she said she has never experienced before when drinking. She also said she has no memory of much of the night, but believes a drug was slipped into her drink.
“This has to be taken seriously,” said the woman. “The only way to deter this kind of behaviour and stop it is for the school to clamp down hard on these people because if they’re allowed to get away with it, if they don’t see any consequences, they could potentially perpetrate this again.”
The party was held four months after multiple Western University students reported being drugged during orientation week in residence. That led to a police investigation, a rally by thousands to protest misogyny and rape culture on campus, and calls that the university come up with ways to help combat gender-based and sexual violence.
“All gender-based and sexual violence is deplorable and we won’t tolerate it,” Chris Alleyne, one of Western’s vice-presidents, said in a statement to CBC this week.
Alleyne added that “everyone must play a part in addressing this societal problem and preventing this kind of violence from happening at all.”
The sororities and fraternities aren’t officially affiliated with the university, but their members are exclusively Western students.
“I was really shocked that this happened after the increased awareness in September,” the woman who believes she was drugged told CBC News. “There was the walkout, a lot of stuff on social media discouraging that kind of behaviour, and then it happens again.”
WATCH | Western students walked out last fall to protest misogyny and alleged rape culture:
While at the hospital, the woman said, she was told by a doctor and nurses there were other women from the same party, and she has talked to at least one other who believes she was drugged as well.
According to the woman, doctors at University Hospital, part of the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), refused to do a drug test that night to help her figure out what, if anything, may have been slipped into her drink. They refused again two days later when she went in to get a doctor’s note for her professors, she said.
The woman eventually called Western student health services. She said a doctor told her to come in right away, and tested her urine. The results showed the presence of an opioid that she said she did not take. CBC News has seen the results of the drug test.
The woman reported the incident to London police, who told CBC they are still investigating.
The Panhellenic Council, which oversees sororities at Western University, is also investigating, but declined to comment.
In a memo obtained by CBC News, the sorority council wrote to its member sororities in the wake of the party and drugging allegations:
“All sorority presidents have met regarding this issue and have collectively decided to cancel all events with Zeta, indefinitely, and are discouraging members from attending any events at their house.”
The sorority council added it is taking the incident “very seriously,” it believes “every single woman involved” and encourages people to refrain from speaking about the incident with others within their sororities or fraternities in order to avoid gossip.
There has been no visible response from the fraternity, women who spoke to CBC said. Zeta Psi’s motto is “Sorority tested. Mother approved.” The Western University chapter was established in 1947. The fraternity’s Instagram page shows events and road trips that have been happening since January. An April post congratulates the newly initiated members and says, “Welcome to the jungle boys.”
Asked about the drugging allegations and the fraternity’s response, Tyler Boisvert, its international executive director, wrote in an email: “Zeta Psi is aware of serious allegations and there is an ongoing investigation. The alleged actions are antithetical to the values of Zeta Psi Fraternity, Inc. Zeta Psi policy is to not provide information regarding an investigation.”
Local leaders did not respond to requests for comment.
Another woman who said she was at the party, but was not drinking, said she witnessed several women becoming ill and being carried out by friends. The woman, who also didn’t want her name used for fear of retaliation, said it’s particularly disturbing members of the Zeta Psi fraternity marched alongside women calling for an end to sexual violence in September.
“They’re just feeding into the culture,” she said. “You support the victims in the community, but you don’t say anything when the allegations involve your frat? I’d be disappointed and embarrassed wearing my frat letters knowing that these are people you’re supposed to be forming lifelong friendships with.”
AnnaLise Trudell runs the education programs at Western University that were set up in the wake of the September allegations.
Trudell works for Anova, a London organization that works to prevent gender-based violence.
The story of the January party is “jarring,” and it’s disappointing the woman and others were not given a drug test at University Hospital, said Trudell about the allegations.
“Although in this particular circumstance, she was not sexually assaulted, yet we would qualify this as a form of sexual violence because she was targeted because of her gender, and something happened to her against her consent and her will.
“The effect of that is very similar in a lot of ways, in that it feels incredibly disempowering. It feels like a violation — something was done to your body that you weren’t aware of, and now you’re trying to recuperate and figure out the different pieces, how they align, and how you move forward to make your body feel like it’s yours again.”
Before she was discharged from hospital the following morning, the woman who believes she was drugged said the hospital told her she could contact the specialized Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre at St. Joseph’s Hospital to get a sexual assault exam and drug test. However, the woman said, she didn’t contact the hospital’s centre right away because she doesn’t believe she was sexually assaulted.
She said she returned to University Hospital two days later for a doctor’s note for her professors, and again asked for a drug test, but was refused again. When she called St. Joseph’s, she said, she was told that if she wanted a drug test, she would have to undergo a sexual assault test and commit to going to court, which she did not want to do.
That information is wrong, said Cassandra Fisher, co-ordinator of the sexual assault centre at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
“We’re here 24/7, and we provide options for people and they get to choose how they want to move forward,” Fisher said. “If someone doesn’t know if they’ve been sexually assaulted, we give them options because we want them to know that this is a place where they can come, and we can give them community resources as well.”
Drug testing is done if it’s needed to help doctors and nurses figure out how to care for a patient in the emergency room, said Dr. Christie MacDonald, the citywide chief of emergency medicine for LHSC. There are 700 drugs that could be used for drug-facilitated sexual assault, and there’s no single test for all of them, she added.
However, this case, involving more than one woman in the emergency room at the same time, will be used as a teaching tool for the future, she added.
“From my perspective, a case like this is a good reminder to our staff that we consider additional testing. If there is an opportunity to use a test, we should be doing it. We wouldn’t test for 700 different aspects, but we could choose two or three to test for. That’s something that I will review with our staff.”
The woman who told CBC she believes she was drugged said she doesn’t feel there will be criminal charges because it’s impossible to tell who may have been responsible.
Jennifer Quaid, a lawyer with expertise in sexual assault law, said the case would be difficult to pursue in the criminal justice system.
“At the end of the day, you have to point the finger at someone. Who should answer for what went on there? We have to stop thinking that criminal law can fix everything that happens. We have to think about why this situation was created in the first place. The conversation that should be had is, ‘What preventive measures can be in place?’
“I think it would be incredibly difficult to use the criminal justice system as the form of recourse here, but I don’t think that’s the only way through this,” Quaid said. “Something played out here that the fraternity needs to be accountable for.”
In October, the Western University student government voted to remove special privileges from fraternities and sororities, such as the ability to host recruiting events on campus or renting space at a discounted rate.
In his statement, Alleyne also said Western would use the “full force” of its gender-based violence policies and student code of conduct to address incidents like the one described by the woman who spoke to CBC News.
“We encourage any student who experiences this type of violence — regardless of where it takes place — to seek both on- and off-campus supports and, if they are willing and able, to file a complaint under our gender-based and sexual violence policy and with the London Police Service,” said the associate vice-president of housing and ancillary services, and interim associate vice-president (student experience).
“I can’t emphasize enough that everyone must play a part in addressing this societal problem and preventing this kind of violence from happening at all.”