No child should en­dure such tor­ture

Nor'wester (Springdale) - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky

On the face of it, the case is hor­ri­ble enough.

A 12-year-old, im­preg­nated by her own step­fa­ther, is brought by him to a clinic in this province for an abor­tion. The girl claimed she had had con­sen­sual sex with a teenaged boyfriend. When, for other rea­sons, child pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers try to find them, they’ve left the province.

Two years later, af­ter an­other abor­tion in an­other province, of­fi­cials here dis­cov­ered the girl had been be­ing sex­u­ally as­saulted for more than two years — but only af­ter her step­fa­ther is ar­rested for a sep­a­rate set of sex crimes.

Those de­tails are part of a re­port into how child ser­vices and the health-care sys­tem dealt with the case, and what mis­takes were made. The re­port does a clear job of set­ting out the steps that should have been taken.

But what you don’t get from the spare prose of the Child and Youth Ad­vo­cate’s re­port is the ab­so­lute hor­ror of the case.

Putting to­gether in­for­ma­tion from court doc­u­ments, sen­tenc­ing hear­ings and Win­nipeg news­pa­per ac­counts, the story is far darker and more tragic than the ad­vo­cate’s ac­count.

The story starts with a man known out­side the courts only as T.O. — the step­fa­ther.

He’s serv­ing 16 years in prison for crimes in­volv­ing young women.

Judge Chris Martin of the Man­i­toba Court of Queen’s Bench de­scribed T.O.’s early years dur­ing T.O.’s sen­tenc­ing: “As a re­sult of his bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther’s al­co­hol abuse and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, his par­ents sep­a­rated when he was just three. Since then he has had no mean­ing­ful con­tact with his fa­ther. His mother be­gan a new re­la­tion­ship when he was seven years old. While that re­la­tion­ship brought some sta­bil­ity, ul­ti­mately it also brought con­flict. His mother chose her new part­ner over her son. Mr. T.O. was placed in a se­ries of foster homes un­til he was about 14 when his mother’s re­la­tion­ship with the new part­ner ended. By age 16 Mr. T.O. had moved out of the fam­ily home and was on his own.”

He started a re­la­tion­ship with a woman who had an in­fant daugh­ter. In the next seven years, the cou­ple had three chil­dren — all sons. Work­ing since Grade 9, T.O. found work in the con­struc­tion and oil busi­ness in four dif­fer­ent prov­inces, in­clud­ing New­found­land. But things flew apart.

“The mar­riage broke down in 2007, and by 2008 the mother was a full-blown crack/co­caine ad­dict. She was in­ca­pable of rais­ing the chil­dren. She suc­cumbed to the mis­ery of the drug world and turned away from her chil­dren,” the judge wrote.

T.O. was rais­ing four chil­dren when he started rap­ing his step­daugh­ter, who was then just 11 and a half: “It started just be­fore the child was in Grade 6. The first oc­ca­sion of sex­ual as­sault was anally rap­ing her, caus­ing bod­ily harm. Af­ter, as of­ten as five to six times a week over the next years, he sex­u­ally as­saulted her anally and vagi­nally. He told her he would marry her, that she would have his ba­bies. The child grew used to this, as if such re­la­tions be­tween a fa­ther and daugh­ter were typ­i­cal or ex­pected.”

When, at 12 and a half, the girl got preg­nant, the judge said of T.O, “He took her to New­found­land for an abor­tion un­der the ruse of a boy get­ting her preg­nant.”

An­other preg­nancy, and an­other abor­tion, took place in Win­nipeg when she was 13.

And ev­ery­thing flew be­low the radar of child pro­tec­tion ser­vices — un­til an ex­tremely vi­o­lent Win­nipeg home in­va­sion.

“None of this came to light un­til well af­ter Septem­ber 24, 2012, when he was ar­rested for break­ing into his step­daugh­ter’s friend’s home, in­tend­ing to sex­u­ally as­sault her. The girl and her mother fought him off as he bru­tally beat them with a metal pry bar,” Judge Martin wrote.

The 13-year-old friend of T.O’s step­daugh­ter had been at T.O.’s house watch­ing a movie; T.O. made in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments dur­ing the movie, and later that night, wear­ing a hoodie and gloves, broke into the girl’s house with a pry bar. He ad­mit­ted to the court that he planned to rape his step­daugh­ter’s 13-year-old friend. A Crown at­tor­ney de­scribed the room as hav­ing “blood ev­ery­where,” say­ing both vic­tims were so se­ri­ously in­jured that bone frag­ments were found in their hair.

A search of T.O’s com­puter “re­vealed in­ter­net searches in June and July 2012 for fa­ther-daugh­ter in­cest, teen sleep­over sex, and more specif­i­cally, for ex­am­ple, ‘fa­ther rapes daugh­ter on her birth­day’” and other, more graphic searches, the judge’s de­ci­sion said.

It took al­most a year af­ter the ar­rest for his step­daugh­ter to come for­ward to po­lice with her ac­count: “He warped her and trau­ma­tized her so badly that upon his ar­rest for as­sault­ing her friend, she tried to shield her fam­ily, her brothers, and would not re­veal what Mr. T.O. had done to her for nearly an­other year,” the judge wrote.

Much of the abuse hap­pened af­ter child ser­vices of­fi­cials in this province tried to in­ter­vene, but were stymied.

There are devils amongst us, and we need to know how eas­ily they and their chil­dren can fall through the cracks in our sys­tem. Be­cause no one should ex­pe­ri­ence such hor­ror.


Ad­vo­cate for Chil­dren and Youth, New­found­land and Labrador

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