'I always thought it was my fault'; daughter recounts father's horrific abuse

·4 min read

This story contains material that may be disturbing to readers.

A Sarnia father will spend eight years behind bars after sexually assaulting his daughter for a decade.

The man, who cannot be named to protect his daughter’s identity, admitted to raping his daughter on four different occasions, starting in 2010 when she was eight and continuing until she was 17.

When the daughter told her uncle what was happening he took his brother to the police station and had the man confess. Following guilty pleas the man appeared in Sarnia Court Nov. 2 for sentencing and to hear the impact of his crime.

“All through my life I thought this was normal… I always thought it was my fault." The words of his daughter, read to the court by Crown Attorney Nila Mulpuru.

"Even though I’ve been told it isn’t, I still do. I cry a lot thinking about it. Why can’t I have a normal dad?”

“Maybe if I talked sooner I wouldn’t have gone through so much pain, but I was scared for my family... Due to the impact of the offence I no longer want to have a relationship with him nor do I want to see him… I don’t want to think or hear about this ever again,” she says.

The daughter detailed many other ways she’s suffered emotionally and physically. She was originally scheduled to deliver her statement in person but decided she didn't want to see her father.

Punishment in cases of sexual assault against children has dramatically shifted in Canada following recent legislative changes in Parliament, particularly under the Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act from 2015.

The call for harsher sentences, including raising the maximum penalty from 10 to 14 years, influenced the 2020 Supreme Court of Canada case R v Friesen, which dealt with similar subject matter and is now viewed as the standard for sentencing guidelines in such cases.

Prior to Friesen these crimes usually resulted in four to six year sentences. Now they're mostly double that.

Both Mulpuru and Defence Lawyer Jamie Guggisberg relied heavily on the decision during sentencing submissions. Mulpuru suggested an eight year term while Guggisberg asked for six to eight years.

“Sexual violence against children that is committed on multiple occasions and for longer periods of time should attract significantly higher sentences that reflect the full cumulative gravity of the crime,” Mulpuru read from the case.

“An offender who abuses a position of trust to commit a sexual offence against a child should receive a lengthier sentence than an offender who is a stranger to a child,” she added, noting the man was in the highest possible position of authority and trust in the world to his daughter.

Another component of Friesen is the effect sexual assault has on the victim, painstakingly outlined by the daughter in her victim impact statement.

Guggisberg acknowledged it’s “difficult to point out many mitigating factors in circumstances such as these,” but says his client does appear remorseful. He also says the man was a victim of sexual abuse himself as a child.

The man spoke briefly before hearing his sentence. “I love my daughter very much. In spite of what has happened I never intended to hurt her. I accept the punishment that’s going to come and I’ll come out of this a better man.”

Justice Deborah Austin agreed Friesen was the relevant precedent. “That is guidance from the highest court in the land… The case sends a strong message and articulates that very strong message that sexual offences against children are violent crimes that wrongfully exploit children’s vulnerability and cause profound harm to children, families and communities.”

“The majority in that decision expressly stated that sentences for these crimes must increase, reflecting the intent of parliament in amending the sentencing regime for such offences in a significant way,” says Austin.

Three officers led the man away. After he’s released in 2029 the man will be on the sex offender registry for life. He cannot contact his daughter or go within two kilometres of her, can’t contact or go near anyone under 16 for 10 years, can’t have weapons for 10 years and must submit DNA.

If you are currently or previously experienced violent crime the Ontario Victim Support Line can be reached toll-free at 1-888-579-2888.

Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent

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