A suspect has been arrested and a Nanaimo student is recovering from injuries and trauma sustained in an alleged homophobic assault.
The incident happened at a house party early Sunday morning, March 27, following a basketball game at Vancouver Island University.
Spencer Frey suffered facial bruising and a possible fracture to his left cheek after he was punched multiple times by several assailants.
Frey, an interior design student at VIU, said he felt uneasy when he arrived at the party sometime before 1 a.m. The location was farther from the campus than he and his female friend would normally go and he didn’t know a large portion of the people there.
“The first thing that set off my alarms was when I was just talking to my friend … and this kid taps on my shoulder and then he says, ‘You’re disgusting.’ I said, ‘Excuse me?’ and then he said, ‘You smell. You’re disgusting,’ and then he proceeds to call me the ‘F’ slur,” said Frey, who is gay. “I retaliated with, I think I said, ‘You’re short,’ and I walked away. It’s just like something I totally would say when I get called those names.”
Spencer said he shrugged off the encounter, but about 30 minutes later he was physically accosted.
“I was talking to one of my other friends and I feel a squeeze on my butt, a really long squeeze, and then I turn around and some kid is licking his lips,” Frey said.
He and his friend decided it was time to go, but as they were getting ready to leave another person aggressively approached Frey.
“He said, ‘You’ve been looking at me all night.’ I go, ‘Nobody’s been looking at you,’ and then I don’t remember anything because that’s when I got punched,” Frey said.
He was told afterward that he raised his wine bottle to try and defend himself, it was ripped out of his hand and then about four or five people piled on him and started punching him in the face. His friend started screaming and some party-goers tried to help while others allegedly tried to join in the assault.
“She was pushing me out of the house and, apparently, I was screaming bloody murder at these people, of course defending myself,” he said. “I don’t remember what I said at all, but apparently I was outside and … they start to attack me again.”
His attackers allegedly yelled homophobic slurs.
“Then I was pushed in the car and we drove away,” he said.
Frey is in the final weeks of his second year of studies at VIU. The university arranged for him to complete his studies online, which he is now doing from his parents’ home in Chandler, Ariz.
Irlanda Gonzalez-Price, VIU associate vice-president of student affairs, issued a statement about the incident Tuesday, March 29, saying the university is taking the matter seriously and is offering counselling support to students and staff who need it.
“This horrific incident goes against everything VIU stands for and I know many in our community are upset by what has happened…” Gonzalez-Price said in the statement. “VIU stands for equity and inclusion. I reiterate that any student or employee found to be involved in incidents of racism or discrimination will be subject to the full extent of our policies and procedures. I know there are many allies on this campus and I encourage you to reach out and check in with one another.”
Reserve Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, confirmed an arrest has been made and police are continuing their investigation.
“We’re treating it as a possible hate crime,” O’Brien said. “We’re asking for witnesses, anybody with information. We do not condone violence, especially violence associated with any sexual orientation. It’s not acceptable.”
Anyone was at the party who witnessed the incident is asked to call the Nanaimo RCMP non-emergency line at 250-754-2345 and quote file No. 2022-10317.