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Doctor's behaviour went from 'comforting' to 'very inappropriate': testimony

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/5/2019 (462 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Three former patients of a Winnipeg doctor have testified he sexually assaulted them at his Elmwood walk-in clinic.

Dr. Amir Ravesh, 53, is standing trial in Winnipeg's Court of Queen's Bench after 11 women accused him of sexual assault. The three women who have detailed their allegations in court this week said Ravesh violated them with inappropriate vaginal and rectal exams as far back as 2013.

Dr Amir Houshang Mazhariravesh.

Dr Amir Houshang Mazhariravesh.

Ravesh, whose full name is Amir Houshang Mazhariravesh, has pleaded not guilty to the allegations and is being represented by defence lawyer Martin Minuk. Ravesh is on bail and has been barred from practising medicine.

As the scheduled five-week trial continues with a strong focus on the former patients' visits to the You Medical Centre on Johnson Avenue, an independent lawyer has been appointed by Manitoba Justice to guard the complainants' privacy.

Jennifer Gaba is representing the women's interests when their medical records are discussed in court. Lawyers have to obtain judicial approval before any of those records can be referenced in a public courtroom, which has led to many legal stops and starts in the trial.

The women who have testified so far told court Ravesh was well-spoken and attentive — he made them feel comfortable before he allegedly started behaving inappropriately and asking personal questions about their sex lives, court heard.

"In the beginning, it was very nice, comforting," a 39-year-old woman testified. She said Ravesh was her walk-in clinic doctor from 2012 until 2016 — when an alleged sexual assault by him made her resolve never again to see a male doctor.

She testified Ravesh would prescribe her medications that caused yeast infections as a side-effect, and then would want to examine her vagina.

"I didn't always feel as if they (the exams) were warranted," she said.

She said he also told her she needed "treatment" that consisted of anal probing and caused her to bleed. She testified he leaned in to kiss her during another appointment, and suggested she stay with him in a hotel room at a medical conference out of town. When questioned by Minuk, she said she couldn't remember specific dates.

On her final visit in April 2016, she said she was concerned about lasting pain from a surgery she underwent two years earlier. Ravesh insisted on conducting an internal vaginal examination in order to feel a scar on her lower abdomen. When she realized what he was doing and tried to get up from the examination table, she testified Ravesh put her hand on his erect penis and groped her breast.

On Thursday, the woman was repeatedly questioned by the defence lawyer about her decision to keep going back to Ravesh even after the initial vaginal and rectal exams that made her uncomfortable. The courtroom was silent as she considered her reply.

You Medical Centres walk in clinic on Johnson Ave in Elmwood in 2014.

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You Medical Centres walk in clinic on Johnson Ave in Elmwood in 2014.

"Finding a doctor is really difficult," she said after long pauses, saying she didn't have a family doctor at the time. "There was no direction for where to go when this situation happens."

Minuk's cross-examination of the 39-year-old woman revealed no one followed up when she initially voiced her concerns about Ravesh — a detail the defence may use to suggest the alleged assaults didn't happen.

After her final visit in April 2016, the woman called Manitoba's family doctor-finder phone line and spoke about her doctor's alleged bad behaviour. "I said that he was very inappropriate, that's why I was looking for a new, female physician," she testified.

The person on the phone line told her they were sorry and would help her find a new doctor, she said. The following month, she said she told her new doctor about Ravesh's examinations.

She didn't go to police until after she saw a news article that detailed other allegations against Ravesh.

The allegations haven't been proven and the trial continues.

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @thatkatiemay

Katie May

Katie May
Justice reporter

Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.

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