By now, you will more than likely have heard about the sentencing of Port Coquitlam Mayor Scott Young, who received 12 months conditional sentence and 18 months probation for the assault of Colleen Preston and her friend. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2008/07/25/bc-scott-young-port-coquitlam-mayor-sentence.html
Young must also adhere to a curfew and perform community service. Smug is the only word that could appropriately used to describe his demeanor after leaving the court today, and as I listened to his statement, my stomach turned violently, knowing that yet another mistake had occurred during the administration of justice.
How nice our system allows leniency for holding a public position such as Mayor. How sad that his history concerning his previous spouses was left to pass as proof in establishling a previous- and relevant- pattern of behavior.Back In 2002 , Scott Young had been charged with the assault of his then-wife Wendy Young. However the charges were stayed (dropped) after Crown and defence counsel agreed the incident could be handled by Young agreeing to undergo counselling. Another court order was issued at yet another time, involving yet another woman, to restrain him from contacting or otherwise harassing her. Hmmmm. it makes one wonder what this man is capable of to require a restraining order…but then again, considering he had rope in his pockets the night he assaulted Colleen,I think we all know.
These two incidents happened prior to the assault on Colleen Preston. If this doesnt establish a history, what does? How the judge could overlook this repetitive behavior is beyond my reasoning.It has been reported that the pschologists report on Scott Young states that while that the risk is low to reoffend against the victims in this case, a moderate risk of re-offence remains for future relationships. A pity that this didn’t play into actual jail time as to really enforce a deterrent with some lasting effect. House arrest? My kidshave more restrictions when they are grounded.
Conditional sentences, and condtional discharges, used as penalties in cases of domestic assault or abuse must end, and the sooner the better. It happens far too often with men who are prone to this behavior, and it leads one to believe that women in this province are not valued by the justice system. Where is the justice in allowing a man who beats, or otherwise abuses a woman to get a free pass with no jail time? How does discharging the record of an abuser protect his victim or future potential victims that have yet to come ?
Abusers are not often stupid men. They are educated and smart, and often know exactly how to play the system to their advantage. And when its all said and done, and the past had been erased, they are free to abuse again as if they were a first time offender, because the system has allowed them to do so. It’s just happened to Colleen Preston, and its has happened to me in the past.
Counselling is not a deterrant to future violence, nor is house arrest with all the comforts it holds. Jail time is the only suitable penalty to someone who has abused or assaulted.
The following may be my past and my story, but right now, perhaps next door to you, a woman is living it. Maybe she’ll make it, maybe she won’t. I did. Please read this, and maybe you will understand more about why the laws and policies surrounding domestic assault cases must be changed.
You Can Beat Your Wife, But Don’t Dare Beat Your Dog
It’s sad this province doesn’t put it’s money where its mouth is when it comes to protecting women, especially those who suffer violence at the hands of a husband or partner. I should know.
An issue still not talked about often enough, even I am reluctant to speak about my experiences at times. Just when I think I have conquered my demons, the tears suddenly pop up, a reflex I am powerless to control. I often cry when I see or read a story of a woman who has been beaten, or killed, by the man who should have loved her well. I know firsthand that women who have suffered abuse at the hands of a partner, especially long-term, never fully heal. But it is that very reluctance of women to talk openly about the experiences of abuse that may be preventing vital changes to the domestic violence policy in B.C.
I want to stop the shame that victims feel. I want people to understand why women in an abusive relationship need specific and long-term assistance, and how re-instating the older policy of mandatory charges in BC will help save women. No one talks about it, no one asks questions. For along time, I was the same way- I never spoke of it, no one asked questions- it was like a big void in my past that people danced around, never quite touching. My friends and family had known, some co-workers, but who wants to talk about such things? Enough is enough.
I suffered abuse at the hands of a previous partner,and the system did let me down. It was not something that happened overnight, and there were no indicators when we were first together that he was “that” type of guy. Handsome, witty, funny, at first he was everything a partner could , and should be. In fact, Scott Young reminds me a lot of my ex, in demeanor and background. Sometimes the most evil tendencies are hidden behind a fake smile. Over time, I noticed small things- he was a bit controlling at times, calling it “concerned”. He liked things a certain way. He thought I should “learn” to do things the way he liked them done.. This is often the case for many women – the abuser seems to be such a nice guy in the beginning and there are no warning signs.
After the honeymoon period of our relationship had passed and reality kicked in, I began to see pieces of the man who would take over the next 8 years of my life. His temper flared easily, he was often emotionally erratic, and when I was in the 8th month of pregnancy with our first child , he became violent for the first time. He kicked me in the back several times in bed one night and told me to get out of the bed we were laying upon. He was hot and tired, and I was taking up too much room with my burgeoning belly, and it somehow seemed logical to him that this was all my fault.
Far away from family and friends, young and scared, I stayed, believing his psychotic threats and ramblings that began around that time, and continued for years to come. My daughter was born a month later, and two years following, I had my son.
My children were my only source of joy and happiness in the years to follow, and surprisingly, he was a good father to them, never touched or mistreated them, and was careful to not abuse me in front of them- most of the time. In the midst of it all -at 24 – I was diagnosed with an aggressive cervical condition showing cancerous cells . In the three years of treatment, and ultimately, surgery, he refused to drive me back and forth to the hospital even once, and told me over and over that If I was going to die, I should just jump in front of a bus to get it over with quickly. My tears could have filled an ocean.
At the time , I believed the outside world ( beyond immediate neighbors and family), knew little of what was going on, but now, looking back at myself in pictures, the sadness in my eyes is profoundly disturbing. I looked, and was, despondent. Through the years, I had tried to hide the truth of my existence from everyone, but the reality was that everyone did know, and no one wanted to get involved . I had gained at least 150lbs comforting myself with food to dull the pain.
I hated him. During our relationship, there were two incidents severe enough to involve police, two separations, court appearances and lots of pain – although to this day, he still denies he was ever physically abusive. Once, he threw a cup of scalding hot coffee that he had just brewed, all over my chest because I had walked away from him during one of his rants. He claims he didn’t know it was that hot – like it makes a difference – but he did. I think sometimes he even shocked himself with his sadistic-ness. In the years spent together, I was spit on repeatedly, forced to cower while he screamed at the top of his lungs at me for hours, pushed ,shoved, grabbed and held and slapped . My belongings were damaged and thrown away, I was controlled with money, told I was fat, worthless, ugly, stupid, you name it, he did it. I started sleeping on the couch after I was jarred awake in the middle of the night with him sitting on my chest , screaming, screaming, he hated me 2 inches from my face, his hands around my neck. I managed to get away and lock myself in the bathroom all night, covering the fingerprints on my neck with a scarf the next day at work
He constantly talked about taking the kids down south, and I knew , because of his past and his connections, he could do it. That was the main reason I stayed- I knew if he managed to get my children into the United States, I would have a hard time finding them. I really didn’t think I could do it on my own, he had worked on my mind for so long.
One day, something just changed inside me. I had done something “wrong” yet again, and as he approached me, I stood firm and defiant -I didn’t flinch and I didn’t back down. I was sick of his intimidation, his threats, his craziness, and if he was going to do it, just be done with it. A part of me really wanted him to just finish it all, right then. I could not take anymore. I stood up to him, and egged him on instead, urging him on, urging him to hit me. Surprised , and confused, he backed away and left me alone
That was the beginning of the end, and the start of my new life. Over the next while, he could see he was no longer able to control me with threats and pain, and desperately running out of options, he resorted to what I call “enforced starvation” as a means of control.
He put a box of instant rice and a can of beans in the cupboard ( my “rations“, he called it), and refused to allow me to eat any other food in the house. He took inventory every day. I had to sit and watch him and the kids eat, and when they asked why I wasn’t, I said I wasn’t hungry. He would just smile.
I refused to give him the satisfaction of eating, and did not eat for 12 days. I hated that box of rice and can of beans.
On the 13th day, I was done -defeated at last . In the space of time he was at work, I got a loan from my parents, found a new place to live and days later I was gone. And funny enough, I took the rice and beans when I left, and they sat in my new cupboard for along time, still untouched.
When I finally threw them out, I cried profusely.
How glorious, and odd, that first night was in my new home! Free at last, it was the first night in many years I slept without fear , without anxiety , without him in my dreams…..
The effects of abuse are long-standing. I hate being startled or being snuck up on, even in play. I duck when you raise your hand near me to wave or gesture, an instinctive reflex that people have who have been hit often. I have long-term hearing issues from injury to my ears. My self-esteem is much better, but I know a lot of work is still to be done. I fake confidence a lot, but I am a strong woman, a strong personality. Many women aren’t so lucky.
Women stay for many reasons- financial, mental abuse, threats that he’ll take the kids or find them and kill them all. Each woman has her own demons to fight in order to break free. But let me talk about how the policies and system affect those choices. The domestic violence policy used to be comprised of mandatory charges against the offender, regardless of the victims wishes. The courts system did see a good percentage of charges dropped due to reluctant witnesses, failure to testify etc, and long story short, the law was changed several years ago to the current policy. It was a cost based decision. Currently charges of assault are not mandatory in spousal assault cases, and the crown decides if charges should be laid based on likelihood of conviction. Men used to have a higher chance of conviction under the old policy – now the majority are routed out of the system into counseling, and “alternative measures”- and its not working. Men who are habitual abuser’s know they can get away with it.
This happened to me. My abuser was charged with assault the first time he hit me hard, on the top of my head, while holding my infant son. He was assessed by Dr. Don Dutton, and found to be a very high risk of re-offending as he ” did not believe in the mind-rape of psychology.” Of course, as the victim,I was not privy to that information, as ridiculous as it sounds.Counseling and anger management courses were not recommended, but that is what his penalty was. He sat in the courses and fiddled his thumbs, I’m guessing, but he was a good boy on probation and received a conditional discharge. This means he completed his conditions, and received a bonus of no record as a result. This is where the penalty process proves dangerous and faulty at times.
The second time my ex attacked me, it occurred in a major mall, on a back to school shopping Sunday, with my small son at my knees. Hundreds of people saw it happen, and it took several mall security guards to get him down and under control, but no one would give a statement. He was that scary and out of control. Now, because he received a conditional discharge the first time he assaulted me, the second offence had to be treated as his first.Enough time had passed that his record was expunged. No statements other than my own, and the guards who had arrived after the fact couldn’t attest to his actions prior. The crown didn’t think there was a likelihood of conviction, and the charges were stayed. He was free to go.
More women than ever are being abused, assaulted, murdered, and the above scenario is being repeated with alarming frequency. In the case of domestic assault, there can be no conditional sentences or a conditional discharge, because it clearly does not protect women involved with repeat offenders. Studies show that men who are abuse once are very likely to do so again and the current policy does not send a firm message that beating your wife is unacceptable. If you beat a stranger on the street, you are more than likely going to jail, or face a penalty harsher than simple counseling, but if you beat your wife 9 times out of 10, that is exactly where the offender is headed.
A man who beats or maims his dog is likely to face a harsher sentence than a man who beats his wife.
The changes were made to avoid overwhelming the courts, and save money – not to save women. The effectiveness of the new policy was in doubt before it was even implemented, and women’s groups have been rallying for its reversal since.
This link shows the doubt, as well as pro’s and con’s of certain aspects to the proposed change, before the policy was implemented.
The following two reports both recommend a reversal back to the old mandatory charge policy, to improve convictions against offenders, and break the cycle of domestic violence. Violence is more likely to stop if women are supported after the charges, and a conviction is obtained.
I share my story in hopes that people will understand why this policy needs to change for women who are suffering abuse. Women need to know before they ask for help, that they will actually get it, and that they will be protected, assisted and guided through the process of starting again.
Its time society sent a clear and strong message that abusing your spouse will not be tolerated, and back up all the talk that’s been going on recently.
Zero tolerance for abuse must be the standard – no exceptions. Let’s go back to mandatory charges with tangible evidence of abuse or assault, and use jail time as the only penalty for deterrant, with no conditonal discharges.
Women like myself, and Colleen Preston, are counting on it.