NWT woman sets out in court the profound impacts of rape
Warning: This report contains details related to a sexual assault case heard in court that readers may find disturbing.
“I pray daily that justice can be revealed and I can finally be at peace.”
Finding herself in a suicidal state after being raped by a family member who broke into her home in the fall of 2018, a young woman from an NWT community was sent to Stanton Territorial Hospital for psychological treatment, a court heard on Monday.
“I’ve never been the same since,” the young woman said in a victim impact statement, read in Supreme Court by Crown prosecutor Levi Karpa.
“I’ve changed mentally, thinking suicide is the option for the painful experience I faced. I haven’t, and will never, understand how desperate someone can be to do something like [my cousin] has done.
“So many nights, I’ve cried myself to sleep. The assault haunts me daily.
“I hold back tears trying to stay strong as I write this.”
The young woman, who was in her late teens and an adult at the time of the attack, stated she had been “assaulted” before, “but never like this and never by a family member.”
The woman stated she feels overwhelmed some days when she gets flashbacks or has something trigger a memory of the attack. She tries distracting herself and calming down by listening to music, praying, or watching TV.
“It shouldn’t have to be like this. Nobody should have to go through this,” she stated. “I have a lot of love and support, but I still feel so alone at nights. I want to just be happy again. [My cousin] robbed me of my happiness.”
The woman stated she has tried suicide on several occasions. She has abused alcohol and smoked weed to try to cope.
“But it didn’t help, so I decided I needed to quit and get serious help and I’ve grown close to the nurses at Stanton hospital,” she stated, noting she has been hospitalized two times in relation to suicidal thoughts.
“I just hope [my cousin] feels shame and guilt for his dumb actions.”
Listening to the words read out in the small courtroom, the man – in his late 20s – held his head in his hands, his dirty ball cap sitting in front of him at the defence table.
The young woman’s mother said in her victim impact statement, also read into the record by the Crown, that she wants her daughter’s rapist to “face justice” so he won’t be able to commit similar crimes.
“He has put a lot of hurt and fear into our family. The seriousness of this attack was prolonged and in our home. While my daughter screamed for help, and begged you to stop, you shrugged her off and laughed and continued to be as cruel as you are,” the statement read.
“This needs to be handled with respect for my innocent daughter, who did nothing to deserve this. Now she is suffering from this great ordeal from the hands [of the man] who horrifically dehumanized and raped [my daughter] of her innocence, internally and externally.”
The mother described her daughter before the attack as being “bright, full of life, calm, collected, and respectful,” who never sought out drama.
“Now she is very depressed and fragile,” stated the mother. “My daughter is now broken and terrified. She is in so much pain. She cries constantly and just wants to end her life. She is very suicidal.”
The Crown and defence presented a joint submission of three years behind bars after the man pleaded guilty to sexual assault and break and enter with intent.
Justice Andrew Mahar agreed with that recommendation, which also included being placed on the national sex offender registry for 20 years and a weapons ban for 10 years (with the chance to receive a sustenance exemption) and being compelled to provide a DNA sample.
It was, in fact, a DNA sample that implicated the man in the crime, the court heard, as he was so intoxicated when he committed the rape that he claimed to have no memory of it.
Defence lawyer Peter Harte told the court his client only realized what he had done after DNA samples collected at the crime scene matched his profile.
The man has no criminal record, has completed high school, is active in the community and has a good work history, said Harte.
Early in the morning on October 26, 2018, the woman was alone in her home when she heard a knock at her door. Opening it, she found her cousin. He wanted to come in – he was angry and persistent, grabbing her hands – but she refused, pulled away, and locked the door.
After going to bed, the cousin pried open the locked door some hours later and went into her bedroom. He removed her clothing and, unprotected, raped the sleeping woman.
“When the victim woke up, she told the accused to stop and get off her,” said the prosecutor, reading from an agreed statement of facts. “The accused, however, told the victim he did not care what she thought and continued to have vaginal sex with her for several minutes, while she cried and continued to tell him to stop.“
The victim began kicking the accused, eventually getting him to stop.
”He dressed and left, but not before taking a photograph of her and saying he would be back in two days,” read the statement of facts.
The man later apologized to the woman’s mother for what he did.
Harte told the court strong Gladue factors should be considered in the sentencing process for his client, as his adoptive mother’s parents and his father attended residential schools. The Gladue principle, named for Cree woman Jamie Tanis Gladue, is a Supreme Court ruling from the 90s which requires judges to consider unique systemic or background factors that may bring an Indigenous offender before the courts and select sentences accordingly.
The man saw his mother being abused by his father. His sisters were sexually assaulted by his father, who was convicted and imprisoned for his crimes.
Harte asked that his client serve his sentence in a northern jail, as opposed to a federal institution in the South.
Justice Mahar noted sexual assault is a “terrible crime” that can take a lifetime to recover from. Speaking directly to the guilty man, Mahar said the sexual assault appeared to be out of character, making rehabilitation “a real possibility.”
He told the man: “Before this happened, you didn’t know what could happen if you drank too much. Now you do.”
After the hearing, the man was led away by Sheriff’s officers to start serving his sentence.
Any details that could lead to the identification of his victim cannot be published.