Sex­ual as­sault vic­tim wants the pub­lic to know her name

Court prac­tice of pro­tect­ing the iden­tity of vic­tims of­ten in­ad­ver­tently pro­tects the per­pe­tra­tors as well

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - SU­SAN CLAIR­MONT Su­san Clair­mont’s com­men­tary ap­pears reg­u­larly in The Spec­ta­tor. sclair­mont@thes­ 905-526-3539 | @su­san­clair­mont

Krys­tal Au­gus­tine wants you to know she was mo­lested by her fa­ther.

She wants you to know his name is Robert Au­gus­tine.

Sadly, it is not un­usual for cases of his­tor­i­cal sex­ual as­sault in­volv­ing fam­ily to be heard in our court­house.

What is rare about this case though, and what drew me to Jus­tice Toni Skar­ica’s court­room Mon­day, is that Krys­tal, 32, asked to have the nor­mal pub­li­ca­tion ban lifted on her mat­ter.

That is the pub­li­ca­tion ban that is au­to­mat­i­cally im­posed by the court with the in­ten­tion of pro­tect­ing vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault by keep­ing their iden­ti­ties se­cret.

“I have fear there are other vic­tims and I want them to have the courage to come for­ward,” Krys­tal says.

“I know how hard it is to come for­ward.”

In cases of fa­mil­ial sex­ual as­sault, like Krys­tal’s, a ban pro­tect­ing the iden­tity of the vic­tim of­ten in­ad­ver­tently pro­tects the of­fender as well.

If Krys­tal’s name was kept se­cret, her fa­ther’s name would be kept se­cret too, be­cause his name com­bined with the fact he is her bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther, would make it pos­si­ble to iden­tify her.

A jury found Robert guilty of sex­ual as­sault and sex­ual in­ter­fer­ence re­gard­ing Krys­tal when she was be­tween the ages of three and nine.

Dur­ing the sen­tenc­ing hear­ing Mon­day, Skar­ica said: “I find that the ac­cused sex­u­ally mo­lested his daugh­ter many times and over many years.”

Court heard about Robert climb­ing into the bath­tub with his daugh­ter when she was three, giv­ing her “big kisses” and rub­bing him­self on her.

It heard he reg­u­larly touched her vagina and mas­tur­bated in front of her.

“Most lit­tle girls are read sto­ries about mon­sters and he­roes, never ex­pect­ing they ex­ist in the world,” Krys­tal wrote in her vic­tim im­pact state­ment.

“In my case, the mon­ster was my fa­ther and the hero never ex­isted un­til I had the courage as an adult to speak up.”

The trial heard that a po­lice of­fi­cer who in­ves­ti­gated the case spoke to Robert’s mother about the sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions.

She ad­mit­ted her son said: “I touched her. I knew it was wrong. I don’t know why I did it.”

Robert, 56, was sup­ported in court by his cur­rent wife and about 10 other fam­ily mem­bers and friends.

Krys­tal was not in court be­cause she is eight months preg­nant with her sec­ond child and her doctor ad­vised her to avoid the stress. I spoke to her im­me­di­ately af­ter the hear­ing.

Skar­ica sen­tenced Robert solely on the sex­ual in­ter­fer­ence charge be­cause it is es­sen­tially the same con­vic­tion as the sex­ual as­sault charge, but specif­i­cally re­lates to a vic­tim un­der the age of 14.

Even af­ter giv­ing Robert 15 months credit for time served, the judge sen­tenced him to three years in prison.

Robert whis­pered a few words to his wife as a spe­cial con­sta­ble es­corted him out of the court­room.

The au­to­matic pub­li­ca­tion ban on the iden­ti­ties of sex­ual as­sault vic­tims came into be­ing about 30 years ago in Canada. But in re­cent months, and with sev­eral high pro­file cases, vic­tims have cho­sen to have the ban lifted to put their names and faces to their sto­ries.

Lucy DeCoutere did this with her al­le­ga­tions against CBC per­son­al­ity Jian Ghome­shi. In that case, he was ac­quit­ted of five charges and a sixth was with­drawn af­ter he signed a peace bond.

By then, DeCoutere’s private life had been ex­posed to the world.

There is a trend to­ward vic­tims want­ing to be iden­ti­fied, though the num­bers are still small, says Lenore Lukasik-Foss, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Sex­ual As­sault Cen­tre for Hamil­ton and Area.

“There is more sup­port for sur­vivors who are coming for­ward and sur­vivors are want­ing com­mu­nity ac­count­abil­ity for the per­pe­tra­tor,” she says. “It is a very strong state­ment … “They feel if they’re in­vis­i­ble, change isn’t go­ing to hap­pen. It’s the sur­vivor say­ing ‘I want the com­mu­nity to know this per­son did this.’”

“The re­al­ity is, I haven’t done any­thing wrong,” says Krys­tal.

“There’s a stigma at­tached to vic­tims and I shouldn’t be ashamed … The truth was told.”

I have fear there are other vic­tims and I want them to have the courage to come for­ward. SEX­UAL AS­SAULT VIC­TIM KRYS­TAL AU­GUS­TINE

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