The verdict was Guilty. 11 counts of sexual assault. 3 accounts of attempted rape. 5 counts of sexual coercion of a minor. We should have been happy. We should have been cheering. We weren’t. The only thing we were doing was staring in numb shock of the words the judge spewed forth for the sentencing.
“Mr. Green’s* life and livelihood have been ruined. His family ruined. His reputation. I now say to you young ladies and women, it’s time to move on with your own lives. Put all this behind you. Mr. Green* now has to go home and face his community and neighbors and family for the rest of his life.”
There was silence under the glaring lights in the courtroom when the words “he has to go home” were said. Go home? He gets to go home?
That day, a sexual predator was allowed to walk out of court a free man, back to his home, his business, his family, as if nothing had ever happened. That day, a teenager and a 30-year-old woman went home and tried to commit suicide. That day, our judicial system failed us.
The Ontario Justice System had once again failed to be the champion and protector of the survivors of rape, assault, and abuse. The judge felt that the convicted man had suffered enough during the three-year trial that he shouldn’t have to suffer time in prison for the sexual crimes he was found guilty of, not to mention the other sexual crimes he committed but was not tried for due to the ten-year statute of limitations that Ontario has.
Later that year, a Superior Court Judge ruled that Section 33.1 of the Criminal Code was unconstitutional and took away the rights of a person accused of rape and sexual assault. The ruling now allows a wide-open door to any sexual predator to use the excuse, “I was drunk and don’t remember doing it.”
How does that work in favor of the survivors? I refuse to call us victims, because if we are still alive, we survived. Surviving, but broken sometimes. Surviving and thriving, sometimes. Surviving and fighting to stay alive, sometimes. Yet always surviving. Yet, how can we survive, grow, and thrive when our Justice System just said it was OK for us to be raped, assaulted, abused because the perpetrator was drunk or high?
We did not “ask for it”. We did not “deserve it”. We did not “want it”. We have no excuse for what happens to us. It happens because the assailant makes it happen.
Then we are left with the questions, “Do I tell anyone?”, “Should I go to the hospital?”, “Is there anyone out there to listen to me.”
Yes, tell someone. If you have the strength to do so. Yes, go to the hospital. if you are not too ashamed or afraid. Yes, there is someone out there who will listen. If you have the courage to tell someone. If there isn’t a 5 hour wait in emergency. If the crisis hotline isn’t busy. If you can afford a counsellor. If there IS a counsellor appointment available in the next 3 months. Lack of mental health resources in Ontario for rape, sexual assault, and abuse survivors has become a major call for our government to wake up!
The rise in suicides, addictions, mental health diagnosis should be a glaring light shed on how our own government is failing us. Yet, the funding gets funneled elsewhere. Rulings in Supreme Court are made to say, “It’s ok that you raped her. You were drunk. You did nothing wrong.”
I am a survivor of child sex trafficking. I am a survivor of 2 rapes. I am a survivor of more sexual assaults than I can remember. I survived until it became too much to hold inside anymore. In 2016 I rode my mule into the unknown wilderness to die. I came back healed. In 2017 I rode out again on the same mule to die. Once again, I returned healed. My wild land healed me and gave me more support than the government of my civilized nation ever did. I finally spoke to someone. Only because when I came out, the police and an ambulance were waiting for me. I had a friend who was a survivor. She reached out. She saved me.
Now here I am, three years later surviving. Not just surviving. THRIVING! And fighting for those who are unable to ask for help. Speaking for those who are afraid to have their stories told. Helping those who need healing.
Although our government and our healthcare system seem to be doing all they can to let survivors down, to make rape and assault not the fault of the perpetrator, I CAN tell you there IS life after rape. Life after assault. Life after abuse. There is life after, but where is the safety? There is life after, but who will protect us? There is life after, but who will heal us? We need vindication. Laws put in place. Resources available.
I say to all other survivors out there. I AM HERE! I WILL PROTECT YOU! I WILL HEAL YOU!
It takes more than one person. But it’s a start.
It takes more than just talking about. But it’s a conversation.
It takes more than just a mention in a court, a hospital, a therapist’s office. But it is a step.
It shouldn’t be placed upon the survivor to fight to be heard, to get a law passed, to beg for mental health resources. Our government should be held accountable for how many times it has failed the survivors over and over again.
A human can only survive so much before they cannot fight anymore. Before they finally give up. Before surviving isn’t worth anything anymore.
We want more than just to survive. We want to live.
*name changed to protect identity