Woman testifies former teacher sexually exploited her through high school

·4 min read
Noel Strapp, 39, reviews his notes before the resumption of his trial at provincial court in St. John's on Friday.  (Ariana Kelland/CBC - image credit)
Noel Strapp, 39, reviews his notes before the resumption of his trial at provincial court in St. John's on Friday. (Ariana Kelland/CBC - image credit)

In the witness box at provincial court Friday, Noel Strapp's former student stood just two metres away, making no bones about how she feels about her former teacher and coach.

"It is fair to say you hate Mr. Strapp?" asked Ian Patey, Strapp's lawyer, during a daylong cross-examination.

"Currently, I hate Mr. Strapp," said the now 22-year-old woman, whose identity is covered by a publication ban.

It wasn't always that way.

She said Strapp was many things to her: a mentor, teacher, coach, friend — and a person who manipulated her for sexual gain.

Strapp began teaching the woman in Grade 7. He wasn't just her favourite teacher, she said, but a favourite among most of her schoolmates.

"I thought that I needed him.… The thought of him not being in my life scared me. And he knew that," she said while testifying the day before.

"It was the most exciting part of my life."

Strapp is accused of sexual assault and sexual exploitation — touching a young person for a sexual purpose. The charges stem from allegations the woman made to the Royal Newfoundand Constabulary in 2019.

Patey said his client denies having any sexual encounters with the woman and plans to take the stand in his defence next week.

Sexual encounters

Strapp, of Harbour Main, was involved in almost every aspect of the teen's life, the court heard. He was her coach in multiple sports and was her teacher. She was close to his wife and children, participating in household chores and visiting regularly, she said.

Strapp and his student also, she alleges, had sexual interactions about 100 times — 10 to 20 of those times including penetration. It happened in the school, at Strapp's home, in his children's play house and his car, she testified.

"How often were you over at his home?" said Crown prosecutor Jessica Gallant on Thursday.

"Honestly the greater portion of the week," she said. "I didn't hang out with friends, I just hung out with him."

About 8,000 text messages gathered by the police between the two have illustrated that Strapp and his student were indeed very close. Patey, however, said there are only eight messages within the thousands that were recovered that mention anything sexual.

Ariana Kelland/CBC
Ariana Kelland/CBC

"Mr. Strapp will say that those sorts of things that you said, you initiated, and he says because he knew that you were gay he never once took anything that you wrote to him seriously, ever," Patey said.

"I don't think it's accurate to think he is truthful. I think he knew I wasn't joking," she said.

The woman told the court that when she was in grades 11 and 12, the two exchanged sexual pictures, videos and conversations on the app Snapchat, which erases messages after they are read by the person receiving the message. They didn't use text messaging for their sexual relationship, she said, because Strapp knew the messages could be recovered.

"We do not have one insistence of any photo having happened," Patey said.

"Right, because it's a text message and he strategically used Snapchat," she said.

Patey also argued that Strapp enforced a strict training regime and nutrition plan because she wanted to become an elite athlete. However, she contends it was just another way Strapp controlled her, adding she developed an eating disorder and lost her period for two years due to her restrictive diet.

"Everything I did in the run of the day was to make him happy," she said.

Patey focused on three statements the woman gave to police in 2019 and 2020. He said the woman had opportunities to talk about all of the alleged sexual assaults to police but that she has provided more detail in court.

"Contrary to popular belief you don't actually remember less when you age," she said. "Especially a traumatic event, you remember more."

The woman finished her testimony Friday afternoon. The trial resumes Monday, and it is expected the court will hear from Strapp and his wife.

Strapp has been suspended from his job since the beginning of the investigation into the allegations against him.

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