Kelowna spousal sexual assault survivor finally getting her life back | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna spousal sexual assault survivor finally getting her life back

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Five years of hell finally drew to a close late last year when a Kelowna woman – who now lives in another city – saw her ex-husband convicted of spousal sexual assault.

That happened after years of trauma, counselling and dozens of stressful court dates for the woman, who is not naming to protect her identify from her abuser.

“Sexual assault comes in many different forms and there are many many different faces of sexual assault,” she said.

“It isn’t the monster on the street. It’s not the guy in the bushes. And sexual assault is not about sex at all. It is about control. It is 100% about control and a husband has no right ever, ever... they don’t own us.

“My thing is too, the more and the longer that (court proceedings) went on, the more healing I was able to get under my belt so I wasn’t this weak little wallflower walking into court. I was an empowered person. It’s empowering to take back that control.”

It was more than 30 years ago when she met her future husband at a time when she had been sober for six years. She maintained that sobriety throughout what was an OK marriage until she was hit with a number of serious medical conditions, forcing her to quit work.

“When I met him all those years earlier, he was quite up front about telling me that he had no empathy,” she said. “If I knew then what I know today about somebody who doesn’t have empathy I would have run as far as I could in a different direction. Little did I know how badly that would affect me. I didn’t have clue.”

His lack of empathy really surfaced after she underwent a couple of major surgeries. He simply picked her up at the hospital, dropped her off at home and went back to work.

“There was no, ‘Can I do anything for you?’” she said. “But he did things outwardly that made him look good to everyone else, grocery shopping and stuff like that, so he was regarded as a hero.”

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With the stress and lack of support she started “dabbling” in drinking again for six to eight months. Her husband had always been a daily drinker.

“If you know anything about the disease of alcoholism it’s a progressive disease,” she said. “Even though I hadn’t drank for 30 years it didn’t take me long to start drinking a lot. After this incident in 2018 it went off the rails.”

The “incident” happened in late 2018 when they had both been drinking and smoking pot. She went to bed first and he went in later.

“The next morning, I noticed my underwear were off,” she said. “I thought it was a little strange but I didn’t know. It was a few days later that we were having coffee in the morning and I mentioned it and he literally proceeded to tell me that he had sex with me while I was passed out.

“I said: ‘You do know what that’s called right?

“He went: ‘No. What?

“I said: 'It’s called rape and I could charge you.

“He said: ‘Don’t say that!’

“I said: ‘That’s exactly what it is. How in the world – now I’m angry. I’m crying – how in god’s name could that have been any kind of pleasure for you? And why would you do such a thing to me? What did I ever do to you that you would do that?’

“And he said: ‘Stop calling it that. You’re my wife.’

“Now I’m in a rage and I’m crying and I’m smashing my fist against the counter and I’m trying to get him to see what he did was rape.

“He just kept saying: ‘Stop calling it that. That’s not what it was. And I’ve always told you how good you feel.’ Which made me feel sick to my stomach. I think I started to pound on him at one point.

“He kept telling me to keep my voice down. I just said: ‘No I’m not going to keep my voice down. This was wrong and it was awful.’ I was sick to my stomach. I think I threw up at one point.”

His response, ultimately was to go take a shower, get dressed and go to work.

“Like – you deal with it.”

That led to her increasing her drinking and withdrawing from him and social activities.

He’d text her complaining about her not being out with him.

“I would say to him: ‘Well, you know why.’ If he had admitted what he did, any kind of acknowledgement would have been something. The fact that kept saying: ‘Stop calling it that’ – I called it that for the whole year, I didn’t pull any punches. I was trying to get him to admit that he did something wrong and he just wouldn’t. He knew my history and that it had happened to me before and he said: ‘It’s like you’re putting me in the same category.’ I said: ‘Well you are in the same category.’”

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It took a full year of heavy drinking before she was finally able to break away.

“At that point I could not stop drinking anymore,” she said. “I didn’t have a choice. The drinking had taken over.”

Her sister funded private rehab in a different city at a cost of about $50,000. And she’s been going through counselling for the past four years.

“That was the most grateful day in my whole entire life, when my sister said she would pay,” she said.

After a few months she finally reported the assault to the RCMP but on the advice of her counsellor did not press charges until her anger eased a few months later.

“I knew from the day I did that, that he would never take accountability for it,” she said. “But I needed to.”

She went ahead even though the police told her these were the hardest types of cases to succeed in with a prosecution.

The one thing that made it possible were dozens of text messages he sent her over the years – that she kept – saying things like he wished he could have done things differently that night and, even, that he was sorry.

She also did it without much support from family or friends.

“Some of it was: ‘You’ve already gone through all of this. Why would you do that to yourself?'"

In reality, people didn’t want to get involved or have it reflect on them. She asked for character witnesses and no one was willing to help.

Some could not believe that a husband could rape his wife, which is one key reason she wanted to make her story public to get the message out that it is actually a crime.

Others were concerned that laying charges might harm her husband.

It took months more for the charges to actually be laid, then months and months of court dates as the process ground slowly on.

“I didn’t have to go to any of them but every court date was like being re-traumatized,” she said. “You don’t know, maybe they’re going to drop the charges.”

Finally, a court date was set and she was getting ready to make the flight to Kelowna when she got the call from the Crown prosecutor saying he had pled guilty and taken a plea bargain.

Her reaction?

“First of all, the shock of him pleading guilty blew my mind,” she said. “Then, of course, reality set in.

"He only pled guilty because it was the easiest thing for him to do and he gets off easer. The plea deal was that he would do no jail time. I was happy. It felt like a win for me. That was a good day. A really good day.”

More waiting for the sentencing hearing.

Then another shock.

He withdrew his guilty plea at the sentencing hearing.

“It was almost like I was raped all over again,” she said. “It felt like I went right back to square one. I just felt like somebody had punched me in the stomach. I was an emotional wreck.”

More months of court dates as the prosecutors had to determine if he, in fact, could actually change his plea.

In the end, they said yes and a trial date was set for a year-and-a-half later, so more waiting.

“All of that time, this is more and more healing,” she said. “Now I’m ready. I don’t have any qualms at all about going to court.”

Finally, she’s in Kelowna sitting outside the courtroom and the Crown prosecutor comes out to ask if she’s OK if he pleads guilty.

“I said I would be fine with that. I just can’t imagine he’s going to plead guilty but if you want to present that, that’s fine by me."

The prosecutor told here there won't be any jail time and she said that wasn't her goal.

“In the end, he pled guilty. After all of this time. Torturing me for another year-and-a-half. He could have it all done and sealed a year-and-a-half before that.”

He was given a conditional discharge with two years of probation and other conditions.

“I know that isn’t an acknowledgement of guilt to him,” she said. “I know he’s not taking any accountability but definitely that door was finally able to close.

"And I didn’t ever quit. That was the other thing. I saw it through to the end and that was my goal.”

That’s also one of the messages she wants to get out to others who have been sexually assaulted. Don’t give up.

It’s also essential to keep notes, records, documents, photos, tell someone and report it to the police, even just to have it on record.

Even without documentation, people need to speak out about such assaults.

“We’re worth it,” she said. “It’s so worth a going through to the end since, however hard it is, how can it be harder than living with it? The more we keep it a secret the sicker we get.

“The other side of it is, and the person who said this to me is why I reported it, she said to me: ‘Why are you hiding his secrets?' I thought about that and I thought, you’re right, I am hiding his secrets.

“We lie for them and we make things look good on the outside and the more we do that, as a society, the sicker it makes us. Secrets make us sick. Period.”

The road isn’t over as she has launched a civil suit against him trying recover some of her costs.

Even though she’s in her 60’s she’s going back to work – in a treatment centre to help others.

“We heal and we move forward and it’s just part of something that happened in my life,” she said. “It’s part of the journey, I guess. I have freedom now. I feel freedom. That’s the most important thing. Freedom.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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