A man man accused of sexually assaulting his two stepdaughters on a near-daily basis for as much as a decade would claim it was God's will, the court heard Thursday.
"He did constantly tell me that if God didn't want it to happen that he would've told him, he said that a lot to me," the oldest of the two stepdaughters, now 23 years old, testified when she took the stand at the Prince George courthouse.
Asked to elaborate, she said it was in reference to the sexual abuse, "although he didn't refer to it as abuse."
The first encounters began, the court heard, when she was 11 years old, shortly after one of her stepbrothers in an eight-child family, made sexual advances towards her then snuck into her bedroom one night and took her pajamas off.
By that time, the stepfather has asserted himself as the head of the household after he and two of his sons moved into the home some months before. Compared to when it was just her mother and five siblings, there were "a lot more rules."
The mother "completely stepped aside," the court heard.
"She didn't discipline us or talk to us about rules or anything to do with life," said the stepdaughter, whose name cannot be published under a court-ordered publication ban against identifying the victims. "Even when I was becoming a woman, she wasn't the person that talked to me about that kind of stuff."
In contrast, the stepfather would "talk to you forever about your choices," and "yell scripture" at her sister. By then, they had been uninvited from a church they had been attending but the stepfather said that did not matter because he was a pastor.
"He believed he was very high up in the Christian community," she told the court.
When one of the family's boys ran away and was retrieved by the police, he was forced to sleep on a cot in the garage and fed food through a doggy door, she testified, and punishments included cutting the lawn with scissors.
Contact with family friends and relatives was limited, and the stepfather also pitted her and the sister he allegedly abused against each other by claiming one did not like the other or was taking advantage of the other, she told the court.
It reached the point where the stepfather was her only confidant.
"He told me that I didn't really need anyone, all I needed was him because he had the answers and he was here for me," she said.
When the stepbrother, who was a few years older, snuck into her room, she said she pretended to be sleeping until he was finished and then went to her parents' bedroom to tell them what happened.
They made her stepbrother apologize but the next day, when she returned home from school, the stepfather told her that as much as it was the stepbrother's wrong, she was being flirtatious and putting out signals that she wanted it.
A few weeks after that incident, while the mother was working a nightshift, the stepfather invited her to sleep in the master bedroom to keep her safe from her stepbrother and she agreed. The habit continued and a few nights later, she woke up to find him touching her.
"He asked me if I liked it and I said that I don't know," she said. "It was very confusing."
As the days and years followed, she said it escalated from oral sex to sexual intercourse at age 14, then attempted anal sex and sex with her sister in the bathtub, which the stepfather video recorded, the court heard.
The frequency reached the point where she felt like she was spending all her time in the master bedroom with respites only when her mother, who had traveled abroad to complete some post-secondary schooling, had returned home for a couple weeks at a time.
"It was more of a vacation for me," she said. "I got to have a little bit of a normal life every couple months. For those two weeks, I saw my friends a little bit more, there wasn't a lot he could say. I didn't always have to be up in the bedroom."
Whenever she complained, they would pray to "make my mind right with my body."
"That happened a lot," she said. "Whenever I said I didn't want to do something and I was adamant about it, he would tell me we just needed to pray harder and ask for God to let me experience and enjoy what we were doing."
He would make her and her sister watch pornographic videos and read pornographic stories, usually about older men and young girls but also involving animals. Then he started introducing the family's dog, she told the court.
The man is facing 14 counts in B.C. Supreme Court, 10 of which deal with sexual assault and sexual interference against the two stepdaughters. Two other charges relate to making or publishing child pornography and possession of child pornography. The final two counts relate to bestiality.
The stepdaughters are expected to testify that the man began abusing them around the age of 12. The eldest victim is expected to say the abuse went on for 10 years, while the younger victim was able to stop the abuse after she turned 18 and moved out of the house.
In giving testimony Thursday, the witness spoke in a clear, forthright, matter-of-fact manner. The accused looked on impassively and constantly took notes in a small notebook, occasionally using a highlighter.
The trial continues today.