It’s been two years. It’s been two years since I faced all of my fears and faced my ex in Criminal Court. He had been charged with continual sexual assault against me in the last nine months of our marriage. I am going to admit to you that this is hard to write about and so very hard to think about, but I will do my best to share my thoughts.
In Canada only 6 out of every 100 sexual assault is reported to Police. Many victims either don’t want Police involvement, have dealt with the assault in another way or feel it is a private matter and they do not want it in the Courts. For myself it was two years after the assaults when I went to the RCMP. Why did I wait two years? Well the Defence in my trial wanted the Jury to believe that the rapes never happened and that I only came forward two years later with a fabricated story and that I was seeking revenge. This of course was not the case. The report was filed when it was because that was the point where I was ready. I was ready to talk about the worst nine months of my marriage. Sexual Assaults are extremely personal, hugely traumatic and full of shame. After my ex assaulted me he would call me horrible names; whore, bitch, idiot, slut and so on. He would sit at the end of our marriage bed spewing this horribleness at me while I could hear our toddler son in the next room. I started to think that perhaps I was those things. Was I asking for this? Was I doing something during the day that let him think I did want these rapes to happen? No. No I was telling him not to touch me, not to sleep in our bed and to leave me alone, I knew that. I was not asking for this yet he still somehow made it my fault, and so did the Defence.
I have never been involved in any other Criminal Court Cases, but I do know that the most used tactic, by Defence Lawyers, in Sexual Assault Trials is to put the victim on trial. Every move you have made before and after the assault is scrutinized. You are blamed for not fighting hard enough, for not locking that bedroom door, for not doing enough to stop the assaults. Victim blaming at it’s best and wow can that ever play with your head. Defense Lawyers are just like abusers. They implant ideas and motives as to why you did not fight the way they thought you should and make it all your fault. You can easily end up doubting yourself. Could I have done more? Was I wrong when I did this or that? and so on. It is abusive and it is horrible that the Judges let it happen. It was explained to me post trial that the Crown is held to a level of decorum because, well it is representing the Crown, but Defence Lawyers are not held to this standard. They can make cheap shots, they can laugh behind the Crowns back (yes that happened), they can throw temper tantrums (yes that happened too) and they can yell at victims (yup, it happened) and the Judge will not bat an eye. It is sickly accepted and guess what? The Crown is not allowed to warn you ahead of time of this behaviour, so please let my testimony be enough to tell you that games are definitely played in Sexual Assault Trials.
The Defence banks on an old text book idea of how a sexual assault victim will behave. They will outline to the Jury that a female victim should be able to physically stop a sexual assault (lets just say that is nearly impossible, most males are physically bigger and stronger than their victim) and that when it is all over she should be in the mind frame to get herself to a hospital, be checked by a doctor and file a Police report right away. After the assault they should behave in a certain way, not have future relationships, would never have contact with their rapist again and should not act out of character. The thing is, that’s not how trauma works. Majority of reported sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows and in most cases it is someone in their home. So lets play this out. Someone you love assaults you and probably threatens you to keep quiet. They may threaten to hurt your children or take them away from you. They may threaten to hurt or kill you or a family pet. They will say whatever horrible thing it is that they have to say to keep quiet because they do not want to be exposed. That is traumatizing and most victims will believe what their rapist says will happen if they speak up. This person has just used great physical force and hurt them in unbelievable ways so what proof is there that they will not follow through with the other threats they make? There is none. So most victims will stay quiet. Many may talk about it later. It could be years later when they are strong enough or something else in their life triggers them and pushes them to talk about it. Hence why we have no statute of limitations on Sexual Assaults in Canada. In fact the majority of reported Sexual Assaults are reported long after the fact. So the fact that the Defence still leads the jury to believe the “text book” way a victim should react is completely false. It is also important to know that the victim will probably feel tons of shame around the assault. They will worry that others will see them as tarnished, dirty or broken and they don’t want to be seen that way so they keep quiet. There are also many who black out or are not completely present during the assault so details are fuzzy. I know that as the assaults in my marriage continued the details became fuzzy. In order to cope with the ongoing assaults I often separated myself from them and was not present. It is an extremely common survival instinct in Survivors of sexual assault. Our brain is amazing and it will do whatever it has to, to help you survive.
The Majority of Sexual Assaults do not result in a conviction. That was the situation in my case. Most sexual assaults happen in private and become a “He said, She said” case. Even though my ex verbally admitted to me that he knew what he was doing to me I did not have any physical proof of that. Just my account of the incident. I had told his cousin about it shortly after the confession, but when questioned by the RCMP she lied and said she had no memory of me telling her that or about any of the many assaults. Without physical proof it is so hard to prove a sexual assault. As a result so many rapists, like my ex, get to walk away and probably hurt someone else in the future.
I have often asked myself if I regret coming forward. Despite the trauma from the trial I am still glad I came forward. Irregardless of the outcome I did hold my ex accountable for the horrible things he did. I shined a light on the darkness and exposed him for who he is. Something he used to scream at me to never do because we were married. I spoke up for simply that reason, because he told me to keep quiet and I refuse to do that. I refuse to enable his abusive behaviours. Should you come forward if you are assaulted? I cannot answer that. I know society tells us to speak up when we are sexually assaulted so that the rapist can be punished. I agree with that. We should not protect abusers. In saying that though our Legal System needs to change. It needs to stop putting victims on trial. It needs to start putting the perpetrator on trial. Examine their actions before and after the incident. Examine what they do and say. Put them under the micro scope. Maybe then we would get somewhere with this unspeakable crime. If you have suffered this unspeakable crime my heart cries out to you. My word of advice is to do what you feel is right. Do what you need to do to heal in a healthy way. It is not an easy road, I know that, but I do believe you can get through this. Reach out for support. Go to a Sexual Assault Centre or call a Hotline, tell a friend. You did nothing wrong and you most certainly did not deserve this. You are loved and you are beautiful, please remember that.
– On a side note I am proud to say that my blog has been featured in the Top 30 Domestic Violence Blogs on Feedspot! Please go to http://blog.feedspot.com/domestic_violence_blogs/ to check it out! My blog was also featured on Open Forest as one of five must read blogs about Domestic Abuse. Check it out at https://openforest.net/domestic-abuse-5-must-read-blogs/