I knew, no matter whether he plead guilty or was declared guilty, that a guilty verdict meant I could deliver my victim impact statement. The story behind what went on during the writing of the statement is for another time, but suffice it to say it was stressful.
I wrote most of the statement in one sitting, in about an hour, and then edited and edited, trying to get it perfect while the final plea was held up in administrative court procedures.
I had a couple people read the statement, checking to make sure what I was saying made sense, focused on the matter at hand, and was impactful. I wrote these words, but since I also lived them, the actual writing was unemotional for me, except for when it referenced my children.
When I delivered the statement in court I had my support person, Andrea Arthur-Brown stand beside me and hold up the photo of me at age 14. It was, and continues to be, very important to me that people recognize that it was not the 38 year old woman sitting on the stand who suffered the abuse at the hands of Mr. Freeman, that it was in fact me, as a child of 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 that was his victim. She needed to be represented in that courtroom, and the photograph was the best way I could think of to summon her.
As with the writing of the statement, the reading was unemotional, until the point where it mentioned my family, specifically the loss of my mother, brother and grandmother. Those wounds still hurt, are raw, and this was rubbing salt on them with people watching. The same for speaking of my children, and the varied impacts Mr. Freeman abuse have had on him.
Below I have copied a complete version of the victim impact statement I delivered. There was so much more I wanted to say, so much more I wanted to speak of, but as the plea deal was arranged before the full trial was held, there were many details that were not officially on the record which as a result meant I could not speak of them. Also, because the plea deal outlined the sentence Mr. Freeman was to received, I was unable to discuss what I felt would be appropriate.
Through the entire process I maintained that what I wanted was for him to plead guilty, and that house arrest was a fine punishment in my books. Instead, by claiming to have heart problems and cancer (claims which as far as I can understand the Crown and Judge Westman never asked for proof of) he was given a sentence of 3 years probation and 10 years on the sex offender registry. Honestly, for me, I think seeing him taken away in handcuffs would have been a sweet victory. I would have liked to see him imprisoned physically, much as I was emotionally for far to many years. He gave me a life sentence, stealing my innocence, taking things I can never get back, and leaving me with more than I can deal with some days.
It is difficult to know where to start, to know what exactly to say here, but what I really want to express is that, despite all the years that have passed since the abuse happened, a day doesn’t go by where the effects of it aren’t felt by me, and, by extension, my husband, children and others in my life. In trying to explain the impact of the abuse, words just are not early enough. Using words to explain the impacts is like trying to explain colour to the colour blind, or like trying to explain the taste of an orange to a listener who has no comparison.
When I was being abused by Mr. Freeman I felt helpless. I didn’t have a single person I could turn to, who would support me, who would help me stop what was happening. I had no one to turn to, nowhere I could run. I always knew my mother would not support me, and as a result I knew that, when I was being abused, if I had told anyone, I would be tossed out of the house with nowhere to go; I was trapped. I contemplated running away many times, and I thought about suicide almost daily. I hated myself for not being able to leave, but again, looking back, I was a child, and there was really nothing I could do.
I was a child. With every year that passes I am more able to say that. I was a CHILD. I have spent so many years looking back, hating myself, blaming myself, wondering what I could have done to change the situation, to stop the abuse. I now realize that, as a child, I had no power. There was nothing I could have done to change what happened.
My husband and I have three wonderful sons, and as I have watched them grow, and approach the age I was when Mr. Freeman started to abuse me, it has become more and more clear to me that I was a child. I need only attend one of my son’s school events and I am constantly confronted with girls the age I was when Mr. Freeman started to abuse me. I see them, hear them talk, and see how innocent children that age still are, and I just do not understand why he chose to perpetrate this crime upon me.
I blamed myself for too long. I felt I had done something wrong, that I was bad, I was evil, and I was useless. I did my best to appear normal, had a few friends, a couple of boyfriends in high school, just tried to fit in. Instead, I felt like an actor, an imposter, in my own life, not a regular teenager in any sense, not belonging anywhere. I always felt alone, even in the presence of others. Mike, my husband, was the first person who had even an inkling that something horrible had happened to me. He knew I went through dark times, and that I would become depressed, angry, that I was often fearful, and that I had been suicidal at times. He knew I didn’t sleep well at night, that I often woke crying or cried out in my sleep. He heard me talking in my sleep, could see that I didn’t trust people, he could see my struggle.
It was Mike that I first disclosed to, though it took me knowing him for about 15 years before I did. It was him that first helped me to understand that I had not done anything wrong, that it was Mr. Freeman that had done the wrong. You see, up until then, it had never crossed my mind that I was innocent, that a crime had been perpetrated upon me, and that the fault lay squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Freeman. You, Mr. Freeman, broke my ability to trust. I trusted you, and you destroyed me. As a result of your actions, I now have difficulty trusting anyone. It took me so many years before I was even able to fathom that I could trust my husband, that he had my best interests at heart, that anyone could have MY best interests at heart. Finally having someone to talk to, someone who never blamed me, helped me to confirm what I had been thinking more and more; what had happened was abuse and was a crime. Mr. Freeman was in a position of authority, and he grossly abused that position, first as my massage therapist, then as my mother’s boyfriend and then as her husband and my stepfather. With Mike’s loving support, him standing by my side, I was able to give a voice to the girl I had been through the woman I am now. I made a conscious decision that I was not going to allow Mr. Freeman to continue to control my life. I was an adult, I could go to the police, I could report the abuse, I could testify, I could speak out against the wrong that was done to me. Sitting here today is a step towards healing myself, both the child inside, and the woman I am now. While this healing journey is a long and winding road, with hills and obstacles to overcome, every little step helps me to put the past where it belongs, in the past.
So today here I am, a 38 year old woman, a mother of three, and a wife. The impacts of the crime against me have been huge. I have panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, I am suspicious of everyone. Whether it be teachers and parents at my children’s school, the seemingly innocent man offering up candy to the kids at a sporting event, to any man I see alone with a girl, I see evil everywhere. I see a child, and my immediate concern is that the child is not safe. My children have never stayed with a babysitter, because I have seen that evil can lurk anywhere, even in your own home. I never feel safe, ever. I don’t feel safe going out alone, I don’t feel safe when I am home alone. I don’t feel safe anywhere I go, and I don’t even feel safe, even in my own home. There is nowhere, nothing, that I have found that gives me the feeling of being safe, of being at peace. I am constantly vigilant for anything that could happen. In places that should be peaceful like my vegetable garden, I am constantly alert for potential dangers. I can stop and chat with the women in the garden without difficulty, but if a man approaches me to speak, I wish I could magically disappear, I am frozen, my tongue is twisted and my brain stops working, and all I can feel is terror. I attend regular counselling sessions and have attended support groups for survivors of abuse. I struggle every day, through the most normal of activities such as getting out of bed, showering, getting dressed… things that for most people are the mundanities of daily life, but I refuse to let what happened to me be all that I am. I have worked hard, and I am going to continue to work hard. The very nature of disclosing what happened to me has allowed me to get help, to be able to put the onus for the crime completely on the perpetrator, you Mr. Freeman.
When I testified in January, it was a liberating experience. I was terrified, hardly slept leading up to that day, would panic thinking I couldn’t do it, that I couldn’t speak out, that something bad would happen if I did. The day dawned and I was shaky, nervous, fighting the urge to run. I went through my usual bag of tricks trying to calm myself, but in the end, what did it was an inspirational quote I found online. I read it, and then I reread it. A calmness came over me. When I came downstairs to the courtroom I saw you sitting there in the hallway Mr. Freeman. I wasn’t sure what I would feel but I was surprised. I didn’t feel the levels of fear, repulsion or anything else I had expected. You were no more than another stranger in front of me. I then sat in that court room, and I answered the questions of the Crown, of your lawyer, and I was calm. When I walked out, I was relieved. I had done what I was told not to. I told Mr. Freeman. I opened my mouth, and the words came to me, and with the release of those words, an immense burden was released from my body. I told and I survived and now I have the power.
I was a child, a CHILD. You, Mr. Freeman, were an adult. You were someone I should have been able to look up to, to trust, to know you had my best interests at heart. Instead you took advantage of your position of authority, took advantage of me, and you stole my innocence. You took from me something I can never get back.
My husband has been my rock. He has felt the weight of my burden. He knew of the abuse you inflicted on me for over two years before I disclosed to anyone else, but being the man he is, he kept it to himself, leaving it to me when, and if, I chose to disclose. So many years he didn’t know my secret, he just knew there was something I wasn’t telling him, but when he got the answer his only action was to support me. Your actions, Mr. Freeman, impacted and continue to impact my relationships. To this day there are ways my husband cannot touch me without me having flashbacks, and other times he touches me and I freeze. In certain lighting his profile becomes yours leaning over me, his hands are yours touching me and I am repulsed, and his face is yours. These things happen when I least expect them, and leave me afraid, lost in the flashbacks of what was done to me, and I can’t breathe, and I feel like I am drowning. For so many years Mike had no idea why I would react the way I did, but he stood by me regardless. I can honestly say that Mike has been the person in my life, in my whole life, who has really taught, but not just taught me, shown me, what love really is. Through the experience of disclosing and being able to speak for myself, I have learned that I have the full support of my husband in all that I do. He has helped me to learn that I can trust myself, that I can trust him, that I am not a bad person, that I am more than my past.
While my relationship with my husband has only grown stronger, the same cannot be said for other relationships in my life. My mother hasn’t spoken to me since July of 2014, since the day the abuse was disclosed to her. My brother stopped speaking to me around the same time. Most devastating was a letter received from my Nana in October of 2014 where she says “In future I don’t want any contact with you and Mike. Your actions have caused me a lot of pain and disgust”. My actions were what she chose to call out. Not your actions Mr. Freeman, mine. You have effectively taken away an entire branch of my family tree, taking away my only sibling, my mother, my grandmother. At the same time, I have made new friends, rekindled old friendship, and I have other family members whom I have grown closer to. My dad and my stepmother now better understand everything I endured in my teen years and we have developed a closer bond as a result. It is interesting that there will always be a gap in my life where the pruned branch of my family should be, but in the last couple years I have found that while there aren’t specific people who can fit exactly into the spaces left, there are whole other groups of people who do fill portions of that space so the absence of the people I loved isn’t as profound.
I will probably always feel some sadness on Mother’s Day, at the loss of what you took away from me. At the same time, last year I chose to celebrate all the women in my life who have helped to fill in the gaps left in my life. The ones who have been there for me, supported me, held me when I cried, cheered me when I succeeded, been there for me no matter what. Going forward, yes, every year I will stop and think of all of you on holidays, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, even Canada Day, when we would have been gathered together as a family celebrating, when I would have bought you gifts, prepared favourite meals, baked cakes, had a barbecue, set off fireworks, but I vow to only think for a moment before choosing to move on to celebrating the people that I do have in my life, the healthy relationships I have built, the people I have chosen and who have chosen me. You see, in all of this I have realized that what I had was an illusion of family. What I have going forward is family.
Sometimes I can be going about my day, running errands, out with my family, and out of the blue I am triggered by something. The smell of coffee and cigarette smoke, especially on the breath of someone standing close by, is like a time machine transporting me back. Certain words, smells, sounds, and it is as if I am taken right back to the period of time where you were abusing me. I drive up Homer Watson Boulevard and drive past the apartment where my mother and I lived, and the apartment where you lived, and I feel like I am going to throw up. My hands shake, my heart races. I try to avoid driving up that way if I can, because I do NOT like the way it makes me feel.
I struggle daily with anxiety. It is a constant fight to make myself leave the house, even for tasks as mundane as grocery shopping. Large gatherings and social situations are hard for me, going to a doctor’s appointment, to get my hair cut, my teeth cleaned, eating at a restaurant with my family, even to just meet a friend at Tim Hortons are all challenges. Some days I am up to these challenges and I can push myself through the anxiety, the racing heart, my mind manifesting worst case scenarios, being tense and feeling like I am going to jump out of my skin, shortness of breath, nausea, and the urge to run away. Some days I can push myself, promise myself that if it gets too bad I can return home. Other days I just can’t do it, I don’t have the emotional or physical reserve to push myself and I am trapped at home by the simple fear of the symptoms that I know are waiting just around the corner. If I am out and see a car like Mr. Freeman drives I have to identify the license plate to see if it is him. If I am in a store I feel sick to my stomach when I hear the ring tone he used on his cell phone. Living like this is exhausting, yet the struggle continues even at home in my own bed, trying to sleep. I try to sleep and flashbacks come, and if I do sleep, nightmares come. Some days all of this makes me sad, and others it makes me incredibly angry, angry at you, Mr. Freeman, because I shouldn’t have to endure this.
The lives of my three incredible children, Sammy, Logan and Ryan, have also been impacted by the abuse. My older two sons, Sammy and Logan, had a relationship with Mr. Freeman and my mother. They have had to cope with the loss of their Grammy and Granddad, as well as the loss of Uncle Adam and Nana. Due to their ages at the time of my disclosure, we, Mike and I, had to explain to them that their grandfather had abused me that their grandmother was supporting him, the abuser, and that it wasn’t in their best interests to have contact with their grandparents any longer. Showing what an excellent grasp they had on the situation, they didn’t shed a tear over their grandparents being out of their lives, they instead showed concern for me and how I was. Logan, 9 years old at the time, however did mention the fish pond that he had enjoyed in their back yard. This was a sad point for him for a number of months, and he would often read the books on keeping goldfish and ask me about the fish and how I thought they were doing. He has his own fish tank now, full of guppies, and he no longer asks about the goldfish.
The boys handled the loss of their grandparents in their lives very well, though the loss of their Great Nana did hit Sammy very hard. Sammy, who was 12 at the time, could plainly see that I had been crying for many hours the day in October 2014 that I received the letter from my Nana, and wanted to know what happened. I explained it to him, and he could see how upset I was. He insisted on reading the letter himself, so great was his disbelief that Nana could be that harsh and cruel. He read the letter and he cried. My big boy, he just curled up with me and we cried, mourning the loss of the person we thought Nana was, grieving for the loss of her in our lives. In the time since my disclosure this was, and continues to be, the only time any of the three boys have cried. Sammy was devastated by Nana’s horrible words.
Ryan, was two when I disclosed that I was abused. He has vague memories of grandparents who used to be in his life, and in the past couple months has started talking about the grandparents he had that died. In his mind there was another life that he had where he had grandparents who had a dog and they all died, that they had a fish pond, that they came to Dickson Park and watched us toboggan on a warm late winter day. These are the memories Ryan has been left with. Someday he will have to have the events explained to him. He started school this past fall, and he knows that Grandpa is my Dad, and he does ask me where my mom is. I knew the question would come, and so for now, I answer it as I always answer their questions, with a straight forward response. I tell him that I don’t have a mom anymore, but that Grandma is like a mom to me and I am grateful for her in my life. When he asks further questions looking for more details, I will be ready to answer. In many ways it is easier now, with him forgetting them, than it was in the first weeks and months after contact with Mr. Freeman and my mother was severed. In those early weeks my precious little son would ask after them in his little voice, whenever a memory was triggered for him. He would ask about their dog, their fish pond, and when we were going to visit Granddad at Home Depot to build a craft with hammers. Now the word Granddad isn’t even in his vocabulary.
Part of preparing this statement involved considering the financial impact the crime perpetrated against me has had. While I have been fortunate and have been able to access counselling services in our community at no cost up to this point, there are limited sessions available through most organizations, and I fear I am reaching a point where I will have to pay for counselling sessions in the near future. Counselling has become a vital part of my life, helping me to work through things from the past and understand how they are impacting me in the present day. Counselling has helped me learn to cope, to fight the anxiety, to ground myself, to keep myself present. I can honestly say that without the counselling I have had, starting in July 2014, I probably wouldn’t be here. I know that when I miss an appointment due to illness, or if the counsellor I am seeing is on vacation, I see my progress slide backwards. I can’t see a time in my life right now where ongoing therapy won’t be needed.
I will never know what I might have become had Mr. Freeman not made the choice to abuse me. What I do know, is that I was an excellent and driven student with high marks, and I had hopes of becoming a doctor or a lawyer, a veterinarian, a computer programmer. When I graduated from the same computer programmer analyst program that Mike did, I anticipated going on to work in the field like he did. Every day I feel like less of a person because I can’t work like he does. I should be able to bring in an income like his, but it just isn’t possible.
I can see and feel the economic impact of the crime committed against me on a daily basis. It changes things for me, for my husband, for our children. Things that are simple for other people are not simple for me. I am unable to hold a typical 9 to 5 job, in large part due to the toll of the emotional impact the crime had on me. I am afraid of being alone with strange men, I have panic attacks in strange environments and when meeting new people. Sometimes I can’t figure out just what the trigger was. This leaves me in constant fear of when and where the next attack will occur. While our family is lucky that my husband is able to support us, we live modestly and can’t afford to take our children on the types of vacations their friends take. We have to choose carefully what we can and cannot do, what activities our children can and cannot enrol in. We can’t eat out often, and it is a big treat when we do for the kid’s birthdays. Our kids have had to learn to save for the items they want, items their friends take for granted. If I was able to work, even part time, we would be able to provide the vacations and activities to our children that we currently cannot. If I was able to work full time, we would live in a larger house, where each of the kids would have their own bedroom and there would be a yard for them to play in.
Going forward, I do not want to have any contact with Mr. Freeman. I also do not want him to have any contact with my husband or our children. I would like for him to stay away from our places of work, school and home.
Sammy, the eldest son of Mike and I, is starting ninth grade next fall, and he will be attending Monsignor Doyle. Mr. Freeman’s yard backs on to the field at the school. We do not want him attempting to even speak to Sammy if he sees him outside. This would extend to our other children, who will also attend high school at Monsignor Doyle starting in 2019 and 2025.
Since I could talk on forever and not really convey the depths of how being abused has impacted my life, I am going to stop here. To close, I want to express that the horrible effects of this crime are with me every day, and always will be. All of this said, I will keep fighting, fighting the effects, fighting for myself, fighting for the incredible family and extended family and friends that I have behind me, and fighting for awareness that there are people like you Mr. Freeman, who look normal, innocuous, but are really an example of the sick underbelly of society.
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