"It's haunting me": Woman details alleged sexual assault at cosmetic clinic

Jan 20 2022, 9:03 pm

Trigger warning: This story contains descriptions of sexual assault and descriptions that some readers may find traumatic.

A woman who says she was sexually assaulted by a cosmetic clinic employee during a laser hair removal appointment in downtown Vancouver says one of the worst parts of the alleged ordeal was watching him continue to work for more than two years after she reported it.

Laura* was the first person to approach Vancouver police about Ali Aghasardar of Dermabella Clinic, alleging he blindfolded her during treatments, showed her pornography at the clinic, and sexually assaulted her during her final laser hair removal appointment in October 2019.

“It’s haunting me,” she said of his behaviour, knowing what he was doing and waiting for action from police. “I didn’t expect I’d have to wait for two and a half years.”

Aghasardar is now charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of voyeurism for allegedly taking photos of naked women during their appointments. He hasn’t been convicted of a crime, but the court has banned him from performing any treatments alone with a client.

Dermabella

Dermabella is located inside this building in downtown Vancouver at Howe and Smithe streets (Google Street View)

Laura chose Dermabella when she found it advertising a cheap laser hair removal package on Groupon. She was a university student in her early twenties at the time. While she found it strange that a man was performing the treatment, she said Aghasardar seemed polite at first.

He allegedly placed tissue on her eyes and protective goggles on top so she couldn’t see what he was doing during treatments. Daily Hive has heard from five other women who allege he blindfolded them in a similar way.

Laura said things got strange when Aghasardar allegedly asked her out, and later allegedly showed her pornographic images on his phone at the end of an appointment and then sent them to her on Whatsapp.

Laura had prepaid for her treatment package, and when she showed up for the final treatment, she alleges a more serious sexual assault took place.

She said Aghasardar began touching her breasts and vaginal area and penetrated her with his fingers during the hair removal treatment.

“I was completely blindfolded with the laser machine pointing at me, so I couldn’t move around,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do, and I was afraid of getting burned.”

She went to her school’s sexual assault centre the next day, and a representative accompanied her to the hospital, and she reported what happened to the police.

From there, she said Vancouver Police Department officers interviewed her at the station but discouraged her from naming the clinic or her assailant publicly to avoid jeopardizing the investigation.

Laura wanted to stop Aghasardar from working to protect other young clients enticed by the affordable services, but the officers’ advice limited her options.

She told Groupon what happened to have the advertisement removed and reported Aghasardar to the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of BC. The college suspended Aghasardar’s registration in October 2020.

Police Seize Aghasardar’s phone

About a year after Laura’s sexual assault, she heard that police had obtained a warrant for Aghasardar’s phone. On it, she said police discovered hundreds of photos of naked women — most zoomed in on their genitals.

She also said police were able to match one set of photos to a second victim because she had an identifiable tattoo that was visible in the images. Laura is still not sure whether there were pictures of her on Aghasardar’s phone.

The next Laura heard, Aghasardar was charged. She’s still waiting for him to stop working.

“I was suffering a lot. And I didn’t know what to do because I knew he’s working as usual as if nothing had happened,” she said. “I know I did the right thing. It took a lot of courage to report to the police. I know it’s going to be a long, painful process. And I lost many things because of it.”

More victims contact police to identify their photos

Kelly*, another client of Aghasardar’s, told Daily Hive she contacted police about her experience after news of the charges broke.

Police asked if she had any identifying markings, and she told them about her back tattoo — although it likely wouldn’t be visible during the treatments because she was lying on her back.

“To be honest, I’m not convinced he doesn’t have photos of me,” she said.

She purchased a $1,200 laser hair removal package from Dermabella in 2019, and alleged Aghasardar blindfolded her during the treatments and touched her genital area more than was necessary for the service.

“Was he doing his job? Was he going too far? It’s just really troubling to think about,” she said. “If I could turn back time, I obviously would not have done [the service]. I don’t care how cheap it was. No 47 or 48-year-old guy should be doing that [to young women].”

Police silent on investigation

A Vancouver police spokesperson would not answer Daily Hive’s questions about whether officers discouraged the initial complainant from speaking publicly and why. The force would also not reveal how many more potential victims have come forward since they issued a news release about the investigation.

“We’re not in a position to discuss details of ongoing investigations; however, we invite anyone with information about this crime, or anyone who has been the victim of a crime, to contact police,” Sgt. Steve Addison said.

The VPD’s Sex Crime Unit can be reached at 604-717-0601. Anyone who thinks they may be a victim is encouraged to contact them.

*Daily Hive has agreed to keep identities anonymous by using a pseudonym

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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