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Victim of decades-old sexual abuse encourages others to pursue their cases

Patience and preparation helped make outcome of long, grinding process worth the outcome

Warning: Some details in the following story are graphic and may be upsetting to readers.

A Prince George woman who recently brought her perpetrator to justice more than four decades after she endured years of sexual abuse at his hands has some advice for others in the same situation but have yet to step forward.

"The first step, before you even proceed to charges, is to get yourself into counselling, to get to the head space where you can handle the outcome either way," she said.

In her case, that outcome, issued Aug. 30, was three years in prison for the man whose name is shielded by a court-ordered publication ban that could identify the victim. 

He was also added to the national sexual offender registry for 20 years. It means he must stay away from schools, playground, day cares and other spots where children tend to congregate for that period once his time in prison is over.

His victim was generally satisfied with the outcome, partly because she made a point of not setting herself up for disappointment.

"My goal is that he be a registered sex offender and that he never be allowed around children again...and if he goes to jail - bonus," she said.

Crown counsel had argued for five years, the maximum allowed for the offences at the time they were committed, while defence counsel argued for a conditional sentence order - effectively house arrest - of up to two years less a day.

In settling on three years, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ron Tindale found a conditional sentence order would fall short of sending a message of denunciation and deterrence but also noted the man's lack of a criminal record, his age and his alleged health issues.

Now 74 years old, the man rolled his way into the courtroom on a walker and appeared unable to lift himself into the prisoner's box although the woman claims it was an act, saying he used a cane when the matter was first brought to trial.

In issuing the term, Tindale read out graphic and disturbing details from an agreed statement of facts about sexually-related abuse that began in the early 1970s, when she was seven years old and he was 22 and spanned seven years. He was married to an aunt and whenever she stayed over at their home, he would prey on her.

"My way to deal with the abuse was to pretend I was sleeping," she said. "I wouldn't open my eyes, I wouldn't respond, I would try to put myself in a position where it was hard for him. I was usually sleeping on a couch, so I would turn my face and body to the back of the couch and curl up in a ball to try and make it more difficult."

Because it meant remembering him, she doesn't remember a lot of her childhood.

"I would just block it all out and put it in a little box in the back of my brain," she said.

But every once in a while, a bad memory would bubble up or manifest itself in another way.

There was a time when she simply couldn't fall asleep until three or four o'clock in the morning and was turning into a "basket case" due to the lack of sleep.

"It took my counsellor just a few minutes to figure it out," she said. "The majority of my sexual abuse occurred between midnight and 3 a.m. when he got home from work and so I couldn't fall asleep until the time had come and gone.

"Once I knew that and once I could sit there and go 'I'm not a little girl anymore, he doesn't even know where I live and he's not coming,' I could sleep again."

It was not until 2016 that she went to police. A combination of fear, embarrassment and doubt prevented her from taking that step any sooner.

As a young girl, she worried that there would be some kind of blowback and later that breaking the news to her mother would simply be too devastating.

She was also under some mistaken beliefs: that there was a statute of limitations on such crimes - an illusion she blames on American TV shows - and that her perpetrator would suffer only minor consequences if found guilty.

"It's hard to break that silence," she said. "And somebody who hasn't been through it really doesn't understand that."

The turning point came when her aunt died and he remarried. When she saw a picture of him on social media with his new wife and a six-year-old granddaughter, "I felt sick because nobody knew what he was and my silence was giving him another victim."

She filed a complaint with the Prince George RCMP and the wheels were set in motion.

Her case was assigned to an officer who worked on historic sex crimes and a team of investigators was flown up from Vancouver. She spent the better part of a day with them going over everything and driving out to the homes around Prince George where the incidents occurred.

As worthwhile as the result may have been, it wasn't easy. She worked to recall dates, times, locations and other details, like what they were wearing at the time, over and over again and to new and different people "because they need to verify everything."

"I have to say, their sex crimes workers are phenomenal. They are so compassionate and understanding and try to make a very difficult process as easy as possible," she said.

Through it all, she made sure to stick to the facts as she remembered them.

"One of the things you have to resist want to punish them for what they did but you can't allow yourself to inflate what they did," she said.

Patience also proved to be a virtue. For two years, she did not hear from anyone and worried Crown counsel had decided not to pursue the matter.

In 2020, charges were finally approved but by then the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, further slowing a grinding process.

There was also the matter of tracking down the accused, who had moved to another province and was not cooperating on such matters as leaving a forwarding address.

But he was eventually found and the matter went before the court. The case against him was helped by the fact that he had effectively confessed his actions when he was confronted by the woman and her mother some years ago.

While the trial was scheduled to last five days, it ended after one when he agreed to plead guilty to all but the worst of the charges - a count of rape. The woman agreed to the deal in part because if she had not, her mother would have had to testify.

All things considered, she is satisfied with the outcome.

"It was sort of bittersweet I guess. We were hoping for at least two years plus a day and the sentence was more than that, which was good," she said. "However, it did not seem like much for the loss of my childhood. Mainly I was glad that it was finally over, and I will never have to see him again."

But she is critical of the publication ban which, in effect, shields his name as much as it does hers.

"When you're a child it may protect you, it stops people from knowing who you are," she said. "But those of us who charge as adults should have the right to name them."