'Very distressing': Island Health speaks on sexual assault allegations at care facility
For the first time, Island Health is speaking out about disturbing sexual assault allegations against a care aide at one of its residential facilities in Victoria.
Police confirmed Wednesday that Amado Separes Ceniza, a 39-year-old care aide at an Island Health-run facility on Hillside Avenue, was charged with four counts of sexual assault and four counts of sexual exploitation of a disabled person.
Ceniza worked at Aberdeen Hospital and was entrusted with looking after seniors and disabled people.
He was suspended from his job as soon as staff at the facility became aware of the allegations against him and reported them to police.
He has been charged with eight offences in total, spanning July 1 to 15, according to court documents.
"It's just very distressing to us as caregivers, because we come to work every day to provide the best care, so that's very distressing for the people in this situation," said Norm Peters, Island Health Executive Director of Residential Services.
Ceniza has been released on bail with several court-ordered conditions.
He must not contact or go near his alleged victims, cannot be within 200 metres of Aberdeen Hospital, and is not to be alone in the presence of anyone in a vulnerable population, including the elderly, physically or mentally disabled people or anyone under the age of 18.
Island Health says it has brought in additional support staff for residents and staff who were shaken by the alleged sexual assaults.
Support workers say the Aberdeen accusations have put a spotlight on abuse of people with disabilities.
According to Statistics Canada research, people who are disabled are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted than those with no disability, while those with mental disabilities have a rate of sexual assault nearly five times higher.
"We were really appalled," said Carissa Ropponen, a manager at the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre. "Sexual assault is primarily about power and control and what we do know is that people who are highly vulnerable are at higher risk of sexual assault."
Victoria police say investigators have spoken with three victims but suspect there could be more.
They're urging anyone who may have been a victim to call them at 250-995-7654.
Police are also reminding victims of sexual assault that they can go to a doctor, nurse or any other health care provided to report it.
Other resources include the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre at 250-383-3232 or the Men's Trauma Centre at 250-381-6367.
Ceniza's next scheduled court date is on Aug. 1, 2018.