For months, people have known them simply as numbers in a class-action lawsuit against Peter Nygard.
Now, some of these women, who claim they were raped and abused by the 79-year-old are speaking publicly.
“I was Jane Doe 15,” she said, as her voice cracked.
But her real name is April Telek.
Telek said she briefly met Nygard in 1993 at his home in California. She was in pageantry at the time and was competing around the world.
She said shortly after, while she was 20, she was set up with a clothing sponsorship and an invitation from Nygard to come to Winnipeg for a modelling contract with his company.
“I thought it was legit. I thought I was going there for a modelling job,” Telek told Global News. “And it turns out there was no modelling job. At all.”
While she was in Winnipeg, she said she was held captive by the 79-year-old for days, 27 years ago in 1993.
Telek is one of 57 women who have come forward and joined a class action lawsuit accusing Nygard of rape, sexual assault and human trafficking. The lawsuit was recently stayed.
“I was sexually assaulted. I was raped by him, more than once, and I had never used this word for myself, but I was sex trafficked,” she told Global News.
The now 47-year-old said she was able to eventually escape from him physically, but said the experience has haunted her for years.
“You live with it for so long.”
While Telek said she lived with a lot of fear for many years, she chose to move forward not as a victim, but as a survivor of what happened to her.
“I don’t walk through the world with fear anymore. I did many years ago after my experience with Nygard,” she said.
“But I made a conscious choice to not live like a victim. I would not live like a victim. I was a survivor and I would live like that.”
Telek is not alone in her story. Fifty-six other women have come forward in the class action suit.
“Jane Doe 16” has never spoken publicly using her real name or without hiding her identity. Until now.
“I was just always afraid,” she said.
Her name is Jennifer Gilmer.
“I know that now I have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Gilmer was in the Bahamas with her mom in 1998 right after graduating high school. She was 19.
Gilmer’s tennis coach introduced her to Nygard and took her and her mom to his estate one afternoon to play tennis.
She visited a few more times, adding there were often a number of other people at the estate and many were staying there.
“(Nygard) offered me a place to stay for the summer if I wanted,” Gilmer said. “He said ‘you can play tennis, you can go to the beach, stay for free’ (and I’d) have my own cabana.”
She said shortly after she moved into her room is when the assaults began.
“Things changed,” she said. “That’s when… the rape and the sodomy started and I was scared and alone and wasn’t allowed to leave. He took my passport.”
Nygard also ‘offered’ her to other guests staying at the estate to do the same to her, Gilmer claims.
“I was broken,” she said.
Read the amended complaint in the lawsuit:
Gilmer said she has previously spoken the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the incidents. Telek has not. Neither are believed to be involved in the recent criminal investigation.
Nygard has been slapped with a total of nine charges in the United States.
The charges include one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, three counts of sex trafficking of a minor by force, fraud or coercion, one count of transportation of a minor for purpose of prostitution, two counts of transportation for purpose of prostitution, and one count of transportation for purpose of prostitution and illegal sexual activity.
He has also been accused of one count of racketeering conspiracy, meaning it’s alleged he and others used his company to benefit illegally and repeatedly, generally involving extortion or coercion.
When Nygard was arrested Monday night, Telek and Gilmer both said it felt like a weight had been lifted off their shoulders.
“It felt like Christmas. It was truly one of the best days of my life,” Telek said. “There’s no shame in what happened to us. It’s shameful what he did but there should be no shame on our part.”
Gilmer said the arrest made her finally feel comfortable using her name and not a psuedonym.
“It’s only until recently that people like him, men like him, monsters like him, are being held accountable for what they’ve done regardless of how much money they have,” Gilmer said.
Nygard is currently facing extradition to the United States on a nine-count indictment. He has denied all allegations against him and his lawyer said he expects to be vindicated in court.
If you or someone you know has been subjected to sexual abuse, there are resources to help. Visit You Are Not Alone for more details.