Jus­tice came at per­sonal cost

Vic­tim says she re­grets re­port­ing sex­ual as­sault

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Shan­non Graham gar­nered na­tional at­ten­tion when she voiced re­grets about re­port­ing her sex­ual as­sault.

And while the 22-year-old Nova Sco­tia woman says ul­ti­mately “jus­tice was served’’ by the courts, she main­tains it came at such a per­sonal cost she would have been bet­ter off had she never gone to the au­thor­i­ties.

Graham made head­lines last year af­ter suc­cess­fully chal­leng­ing a pub­li­ca­tion ban on her iden­tity so she could speak freely about her gru­elling jour­ney through the jus­tice sys­tem while the man con­victed of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing her was re­leased from prison pend­ing ap­peal.

In a de­ci­sion re­leased last week, Nova Sco­tia’s high­est court dis­missed Jared Peter Beck-Wentzell’s ap­peal, re­ject­ing his claims that the trial judge mis­un­der­stood ev­i­dence and failed to con­sider the de­fence of hon­est but mis­taken be­lief in con­sent.

Graham said she is re­lieved to know her former com­mon­law spouse will “face the con­se­quences,’’ and pre­sum­ably serve out the rest of his two-and-ahalf year prison sen­tence.

The rul­ing still came as some­thing of a pyrrhic vic­tory to the sin­gle mother, who said for roughly two and a half years she has been trapped in an un­re­lent­ing le­gal grind that con­sumed her life “non­stop.’’

“I was more or less happy that it was all fi­nally over,’’ she said. “I’m happy that jus­tice is served, but there’s a lot of peo­ple who are af­fected by it, so one way or an­other, it’s messed up peo­ple’s lives.’’

Graham told the court at last Jan­uary’s trial that Beck-Wentzell sex­u­ally as­saulted her in their bed­room in Bridge­wa­ter on July 12, 2014, while she tried to shove him away and re­peat­edly said “no,’’ from “the be­gin­ning right ‘till the end.’’

Beck-Wentzell tes­ti­fied that he and Graham were “mak­ing out,’’ and he told the court he didn’t” force her into any­thing.’’

Beck-Wentzell was con­victed of sex­ual as­sault and jailed last April, but about six weeks into his sen­tence won re­lease while wait­ing for the Nova Sco­tia Court of Ap­peal to hear his case.

Last sum­mer, Graham spoke to The Cana­dian Press about how she had no voice or ad­vo­cate dur­ing the trial, which left her feel­ing like a “piece of ev­i­dence’’ and “less than ac­tual hu­man be­ing.’’ She said she re­gret­ted re­port­ing the rape to po­lice.

Graham says now she stands by that sen­ti­ment, de­spite the os­ten­si­bly favourable out­come of her case.

“I spent two years of my life not know­ing how to move for­ward,’’ she said. “I just could have got­ten the help I needed and got­ten over it a whole lot faster.’’

Graham said no one has suf­fered more as a re­sult of this pro­longed le­gal process than her three-year-old son. She talks sadly about what the tod­dler has had “to put up with’’ dur­ing his for­ma­tive years — a mother who was “stressed out all the time over court,’’ and “learn­ing how to pick my­self up’’ from trauma.

Graham said she uses her son as mo­ti­va­tion to “restart’’ her life. Since last fall, she’s been study­ing at a com­mu­nity col­lege to be­come an oc­cu­pa­tional and phys­io­ther­apy as­sis­tant.

“Peo­ple should just know, do what’s best for them, and that’s not al­ways go­ing the way that we’re kind of taught to,’’ she said.

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