An UMSU executive candidate running with the New UMSU slate has been accused of psychological abuse by several women who say they fear he will be elected into a position of power on campus.
The women said Fardad Hakem — who is running for vice-president of finance and operations — was emotionally abusive in romantic relationships and verbally abusive to women who held positions of authority over him, including residence advisors (RA) in university-run student housing.
One reported being left with a bloody nose after a car door was slammed in her face.
Hakem said in an email that he categorically denies ever acting in an abusive manner and suggested a political motive behind the women coming forward.
“This year they have chosen my name to be on the line and harmed,” he said. “These accusations paint me as irresponsible and belligerent to women in positions of power as well as with those I have been in consensual relationships with.”
“Anyone who knows me or has worked with me understands that the person I am is not reflective of the character painted by those who have come forward,” he said.
Hakem is a business partner at local nightclub 441 Main, where he works security. He recently made headlines after turning a person away from the nightclub after hearing them make homophobic remarks. He is also served as manager of security for the Summer of Sound music festival.
“My legal representative will confirm that I have I never been arrested for or charged with any crime,” he said.
“I recognize that there were times in consenting relationships, and the times that followed the break up and parting of ways, where there were times a few years ago where I may have made some women uncomfortable in moments of heightened emotion,” he said.
“I also may have made these women uncomfortable by seeking advice from my peers and support circles after a break up.”
I can imagine that if he’s elected, or if he runs again, it wouldn’t be representative, it wouldn’t be good for anyone
Emma Ausen, a student at the U of M since 2014, said she dated Hakem for nearly a year during her first year of university after the two met in a campus residence.
“I didn’t figure it out until afterwards, but he was fairly emotionally abusive and he did a lot of manipulative things to me,” she said. “He destroyed my confidence. He kind of treated me like a possession and I felt like a possession a lot during that time — and I know that he’s gone on since then to treat women in the same way.”
According to a 2008 paper published by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the terms psychological and emotional abuse are interchangeable and actions that qualify include “threats of harm or abandonment, humiliation, deprivation of contact, isolation and other psychologically abusive tactics and behaviours.”
Ausen said she came forward after learning Hakem was running for an UMSU executive position.
“I can imagine that if he’s elected, or if he runs again, it wouldn’t be representative, it wouldn’t be good for anyone.”
She said the abuse did not start at the beginning of the relationship but gradually escalated as time went on.
“He yelled at me for things that weren’t my fault and I started to feel guilty about things that I shouldn’t have felt guilty about,” she said. “But, being in the relationship, I couldn’t really see what was going on.”
Ausen, who is an international student from the U.S., said the gradual erosion of the relationship was “very isolating” and she found herself separated from her friends.
“In the first parts of the relationship, I was like ‘Oh, this is the best thing,’” she said. “I told all my friends how good it was, how good he was treating me, and then when he started to treat me differently, I almost felt embarrassed and like I had to fix something.
“I felt like I couldn’t talk to any of my friends about the problems that were going on within the relationship.”
Ausen said the relationship revolved around emotional manipulation and gaslighting — when a victim is made to constantly question themselves — much of which she would later find herself apologizing for.
“He would get irrationally mad at me, and oftentimes I would end up apologizing to him for things like living in the same residence building as a boy that I had slept with before. He got incredibly, irrationally mad at me for it and I had to feel guilty,” she said. “And I apologized, and there was just many times during the relationship that I remember him being so mad, and me feeling like I was worthless and that I had to do everything to be good enough to be with him.”
While Ausen said she did speak with counselling services on campus, she never filed an official complaint.
She said she received the worst grades of her university career in the period they were together, attributing it to both the relationship and it being the second semester of her first year away from home. She said her grades improved after they broke up.
Ausen said the relationship fractured her sense of self-worth.
“I think the way he treated me — what he told me about who I was and who he was — he thought he was the greatest person in the world and I didn’t deserve to be with him,” she said.
Hakem acknowledged he may have acted in a manner that could be perceived as harmful but added that he has sought support through therapy and counselling for what he called his “problems with anger.”
“I also accept that anger management has been something I have constantly strived to address through support from positive role models, a new supportive girlfriend and woman in my life and pursuit of professional avenues to address my problems with anger, such as therapy and counselling,” he said. “Emotionally acting out in certain instances were mistakes for which I regret and these are actions I hope to address by professional means.”
While Ausen said she does not recall any physical abuse, a woman — who has also spoken with the Manitoban and requested to remain anonymous — reported witnessing Hakem try to grab Ausen’s neck and pull her away from a conversation.
The woman, who was a residence advisor on a different floor of the same building as Hakem, said it was not the only time she witnessed him use physical force.
While the RA said she and Hakem were initially on friendly terms and would occasionally go to the gym together, the relationship devolved into a cycle of harassment after she exercised her authority as a residence advisor.
The RA said the relationship never fully recovered and months later while the two were sharing a car with mutual friends, “he slammed the car door in my face, giving me a bloody nose.”
She said she believes it was done purposely.
“He’s just very manipulative and very kind of scary to be around for women,” she said. “There was instances that I was around when he referred to all women [as] dogs, [that] all women are beneath him,” she said.
She said his negative behaviour specifically targeted women.
“Basically, if the female [residence advisors] asked him to do something, he would get huffy, or ignore it, or whatever,” she said.
She said she included accounts of his behaviour in her weekly reports to Residence Life staff and has not spoken with Hakem since the car door incident.
Being close friends with Ausen, she said Hakem’s manipulative behaviour alienated Ausen from her personal relationships.
“We just didn’t have contact while they were dating,” she said. “And then after they broke up, she called me right away and we went for coffee.”
The RA said she came forward because she believes his behaviour makes him ineligible for an executive position in the student union.
“I think it’s highly inappropriate for him to be in any power position when he is this disrespectful to women,” she said.
I apologize to anyone who felt that I made them uncomfortable or [caused them] harm — that was never my intent
Another woman who came forward and requested anonymity said she dated Hakem for several months after he pursued her aggressively.
“I wasn’t really looking for a boyfriend, but he wouldn’t take no, and basically broke me down until I said yes to date him,” she said.
She said he would show up at her home and in her classes on a daily basis. She said she noticed an immediate change in his attitude after she agreed to begin a relationship.
“The day we started dating, it was the day the abuse started,” she said. “Like it was instant, when he knew he had me locked down.”
At one point, she said he called her a “slut” and “disgusting” after learning she had been in previous romantic relationships.
She said he implied her being in previous romantic relationships had tainted her, and that he would “fix her” and resolved to “make [her] clean.”
She said he would attempt to monitor her actions when he was not around, including asking mutual friends who worked at other bars and nightclubs to watch her and update him on her actions.
“There was a time where I went to a bar and he checked the security cameras, because he thought I was lying to him,” she said.
Hakem denies ever doing this.
“I have never misused my position and past work as security at night clubs to over reach and over extend power illegally,” he said. “My priority in my duties at venues worked at were to keep all patrons safe regardless of background, ethnicity, sexual orientation, creed, religion and political belief.”
Like Ausen, she said she was unable to see his behaviour as abusive at the time because he would buy her gifts and take her out constantly.
“I was blinded [by] the charm, I guess,” she said.
She said Hakem would become “obsessed” with her male friends to the point where one was concerned for his safety and broke off contact.
“By the end of the relationship, my friends were like ‘We can’t deal with this anymore, you’re not listening, he’s a bad guy,” she said. “And then I finally started to see it.”
She said she and Hakem have not spoken since they broke up and he has never apologized for his actions.
Hakem said he regretted “emotionally acting out in certain instances.”
“I apologize to anyone who felt that I made them uncomfortable or [caused them] harm — that was never my intent,” he said.
She said Hakem’s treatment of her changed the way she approaches relationships — certain words she said he frequently used can be triggering to her, and she is more prone to arguments because “with him, there was no talking about things, we went straight into yelling at each other.”
“My mentality now is ‘Okay, they’re going to yell at you, prepare yourself,’ when that’s not the case,” she said.
“That’s not a normal human reaction when you say, ‘Can you pass the salt,’ you know.”
Like the other women who came forward, she said she fears that Hakem will end up in a position of power.
“I’ve seen him interact with other people, and it’s scary — he is very aggressive, and I don’t want that person to have power,” she said.
“If someone tells him ‘No,’ that person’s going to get hurt. Either physically, emotionally or verbally.
“I’m scared for that person.”