About 4 weeks ago I was asked if I would be interested in giving a talk to a group of about 30 law students at Osgoode Hall, the Law School at York University. It was suggested that while the students get the perspective from both the defense and prosecution they seldom get any real insight into the impact and perspective of victims of sexual abuse. I readily agreed despite my inexperience (and discomfort) with public speaking. I felt that this would provide me with an opportunity to share my perspective, based upon my personal experiences, of a culture that to me does not want to honestly look at or discuss what needs to change in order to prevent the sexual abuse of our most vulnerable citizens with people that may one day be in position to assist in that change.
Yesterday I was informed that it might not be a good idea for me to proceed, as there was a very real possibility that my words, opinions and perspectives would be taken out of context either by group members or the Crown Attorney leading the seminar. As a result of this potential my engagement did not proceed.
So I am laying it out here for you as I feel that this needs to be said.
My name is Bryant, I am 43 years old and I was sexually abused for a period of about three years between the ages of 5 and 8.
I do not consider myself to be either a victim or a survivor as I feel that both those terms diminish me as a person who has experienced one of the most insidious yet pervasive violations of the individual.
Victims to me are those still cowering, wounded in the corner and survivors are those that our society holds up to prove that all this can be gotten past. But the bottom line is that having this kind of experience will have lifelong ramifications upon the individual.
And in my case the effects of have played out in every aspect of my life since.
In my teens and twenties I had minor issues with substance abuse, namely alcohol, and I have tried at one point or another most drugs you can think of. I now rarely imbibe but have been smoking marijuana fairly steadily since I was 11 years old.
I have had problems in my familial relationships, my brother who is 3 years older than I and was also subjected to this same abuser, we have never been close since the abuse came to an end
He, I believe, because of his guilt for not protecting me as well as the resulting trauma that has affected his life.
And for myself I can only surmise that I did hold on to some of the same, that he didn’t protect me and the resulting lack of trust, particularly of males that has permeated my life affected that relationship as well.
The relationship with my mother, who I always both loved and respected was never the same after the abuse, her own guilt drowned out with alcohol, and for her own prior reasons an inability to deal with the issue of my abuse from an emotional perspective.
While I never felt that I was holding my mother personally responsible for allowing this to happen, the reality of the matter is that she left my brother and I alone with a sexual predator.
And honestly ladies and gentlemen, that is a pretty difficult dynamic for all parties to resolve in a way that truly salvages relationships.
I do however, look back with happiness, that I was able to assuage her guilt on her deathbed 5 years ago.
I first met Dr. Julian Gojer, about 17 years ago when at the age 26 it finally dawned on me that so much of what seemed wrong in my life, from my issues with anger, borderline alcoholism, difficulties in relationships, nihilistic worldview, hardcore atheistic perspective, minor criminal and anti-social behavior, and most ominously a lingering depression could all be traced back to the sexual abuse that I had always known was there but could not see it’s effect upon my state of being both in myself and in my broader worldview.
Dr. Gojer diagnosed me with Dystimia
Which is basically a longterm omnipresent and low-level depression that has informed most of my life. While I am not looking to box myself in with a generic diagnosis / label, the shoe does seems to fit.
Since I am at this venue talking about this subject it seems to make sense that I address my perspective here utilizing a cultural and societal based model.
My personal opinion of this issue is that we live in a culture that indirectly condones the sexual exploitation of children. This issue is so rampant and wide spread that I have been unable to come to any other conclusion.
So let me ask this question:
How many people here today have been sexually violated?
If the statistics are to be trusted,
1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will suffer some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18.
If this hasn’t been your personal experience, I ask you to look around the room and do the math.
This is on so many levels unconscionable.
In a society that pays so much lip service to the protection of children it really begs the question: what the fuck is going on here.
I do not have any answers for you as to what needs to change here, though I will pose 2 questions:
1) Why is there so little effort put into preventing this when we know the number of people affected is so high?
2) What needs to change here?
We still live in a culture that does not truly want to look inside of itself and find those answers. Because if it did this would be part of a larger ongoing conversation involving all levels of society to actively and honestly address, change and help assist those affected and not simply with monetary compensation after the fact.
Ignoring the broader issue and piecemeal monetary settlements does nothing to assist those who have been violated actually heal.
I do not believe that the police, the crown, the judges or the law makers really understand or care enough to change the status quo, for I can assure you that there are abusers involved in all of those professions.
When my abuse came to light as a result of another child telling his parents and the police being brought in.
I was home on a PA day with my brother when 2 non-uniformed cops came to my door, we called my mother at work and she said to let them in and she would get home as soon as she could.
All these years later in still feels to me that it was an interrogation.
And the end result was that while the abuser was removed from my life, that was the end of it. We were neither informed further about the investigation nor what happened to the offender. And I was left with a lingering sense of betrayal and loss. For these types of individuals are well versed in gaining trust and friendship and then turning the resultant vulnerability into exploitation and power over.
Flash forward to 1998 just before I stopped doing work with Dr. Gojer.
I had found my abuser’s name in the phonebook and in one of many ironies found that he was living in the same area where my mother now lived, in Scarborough as opposed to where the abuse had taken place in North York. I staked out his house and confirmed that it was indeed him, all these years later and as I sat in my car I wondered which of my friends I could get a gun through, knowing that it wouldn’t be that difficult.
But in the end I decided to speak with the sexual assault squad at 42 division near where he lived. I called and asked if they would like to know about a pedophile that lived in their neighbourhood, when I told them the name Trevor Man, I was informed that they were aware of him as he was under current charges and asked if I would like to come in and talk to them. A few days later, I went in and spoke with a near retirement and completely sympathetic detective named Tranter (sp?). Who after interviewing both myself and my brother asked if we would like to add on an historic charge to his current ones. We hesitantly agreed.
Man’s current charge was for sexually abusing a 15 year old boy who lived on his street with his single mother, whom he had befriended. A similar pattern as all those years ago. I also found out that he had 2 prior convictions for sexually assaulting under aged boys.
It was suggested that by adding this historical charge and being allowed to read a victim impact statement into the court record I would be able to add some weight to the sentence and possibly allow for some healing in me.
Needless to say this was not how it worked out.
Prior to trial there was a meeting with my brother, detective Tranter and myself in the Crown Attorney for the City of Scarborough, John McMahon’s office. Mr. McMahon is now a judge with the Superior Court of Ontario.
In his office the Crown informed me that I had 3 options.
As the current charges related to a now 17 year old boy, who was unwilling to testify, in open court, something which I could both understand and empathize with, the crown had cut a deal with the defendant – a twice convicted serial pedophile – to give him 2 years less a day, as you are aware the maximum sentence allowed before a penitentiary sentence. Allowing for selective memory, I am pretty certain he laughed when I suggested that Man was a dangerous offender.
In my incredulity of hearing that I really cannot be certain of the vitriol that I spewed forth upon the Crown, but let’s say it is probably a good thing that I never sought out that gun .
So as I said I was given 3 options:
1) Shut up, like it and proceed.
2) Do nothing.
3) Separate the historical charge, which would most likely result in taking 3 to 5 years to run through the courts and probably result in a concurrent sentence.
I went with door #1 but I did not like it.
On the day of the sentencing I was denied being able to read my statement into the court, despite previous promises, by the Police, by the Crown and by the Victims Services Worker.
The only feel good moment in this whole affair happened just as the proceedings were completed. A woman leaned in behind me and quietly thanked me, as the now third time convicted pedophile had been coaching her young Son in water polo at this very institution, York University.
Having had a lack of trust for all authority especially the police, having had no belief in the criminal justice system, having had no faith in lawyers and crown attorneys I had actually set out on this last chapter hoping that this outcome would change some of those old imprints, but here I was again being proven right by a system of indifference that does not seem to care about the impact that this type of violence, has upon the weakest members of our society. And this is violence; just because I was never physically harmed by this experience the sexual coercion of children by adults is an act of violence, which leaves scars much deeper than any physical wounds ever can.
From my vantage point here today I can categorically state that having to deal with this added dimension in my life has:
Fucked up my family, both as individuals and in relationship with one and other.
Fucked up my intimate relationships, because these types of experiences wreck so much havoc upon sexual dynamics.
Made me miss out on many educational and employment opportunities and has really skewed my relationship to the state, to society and to this culture.
I suppose my hope for being here today is to allow you the opportunity to hear what kind of effect this can have on the people who suffer through it, but also that maybe with this information you will go out into your chosen profession and help make a difference to stop the continued victimization of children both before and after they cross your paths.
Thanks for listening.