TW for rape, child abuse, victim-blaming
There is a story in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald today about a woman who was sexually abused by her mother and her mother’s common-law boyfriend from the age of eleven. It started with the man coming into the girl’s bedroom at night and reaching up under her nightie to fondle her; she screamed for her mother, but her mother was too drunk to respond. When the girl was twelve, her mother – her own mother – coached her on giving blow jobs to this man. The abuse continued until the girl was fifteen, often taking the form of, in her words, a “sick threesome” with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend.
When the girl was fifteen she told her mother’s boyfriend that she would report him to the police. He told her that she couldn’t, because her mother was too deeply implicated. “How could you do this to your own mother?” were his exact words.
After that the abuse stopped. Eleven years later the girl, now married with children of her own, pressed charges against her abusers.
Both the girl’s mother and the man, who separated several years ago, plead guilty. The mother was supposed to be sentenced this week, but her case was adjourned until the end of the month. The man was sentenced recently in a Halifax provincial court to five years in prison.
This man preyed on a young girl – a young girl who also happened to be his live-in girlfriend’s daughter – for four years. For three of those years he demanded oral sex from her almost every day. From a twelve year old. With her mother’s “help.” As a child – and I cannot emphasize enough that she was a child throughout all of this – she spent four years being raped on a near-daily basis.
I can’t even imagine the toll that this has taken on her. She will live with the emotional and physical fallout of these experiences for the rest of her life.
And him? The rapist? Well, he’ll be free as a bird in five years’ time.
Why only five years? Because, according to Crown attorney Chris Nicholson, the man was smart enough to plead guilty and he had no previous criminal record.
I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that a person required a previous criminal record in order to receive adequate sentencing for years of abuse and rape of a minor.
This story has received almost no attention. A friend of mine in Halifax tried to contact the national media, but they just took her name and number and said they would call her back. They never called her back. They either just weren’t interested or else felt that it was too contentious – but given the high-profile treatment other rape cases have received in the media, the latter doesn’t seem very likely, does it? Perhaps they were put off by the fact that the complainant’s identity is protected by a publication ban but, again, that didn’t stop anyone when it came to Steubenville’s Jane Doe, did it? And anyway what’s important here isn’t who the complainant is, but the fact that our court system seems to have so little regard for what happened to her. What’s important is that other young girls (and boys, for that matter) feel safe coming forward with these types of accusations. A sentence of five years will not make anyone feel safe.
The unbelievably light sentencing and the lack of media attention shows how little we value the safety of young girls. I mean, we’re happy to provide them with all kinds of tips on how not to get raped, but when they are assaulted – often, as in this case, in their own home and by someone they know and trust – we check out. We’re done. We stop talking about it. Because maybe she somehow provoked it, or maybe she didn’t fight him off hard enough, or maybe it’s just too sad and uncomfortable and we don’t want to think about it. We don’t want to accept that this type of abuse is the reality for so many kids out there.
Five years in prison, you guys. That is what our court system thinks is an adequate punishment for repeatedly raping a young girl from the time she was eleven until she was fifteen. Five years for a lifetime of shame and hurt, and the media doesn’t care. No one seems to care.
This is what rape culture looks like.