A Vancouver Island man who sexually assaulted his stepdaughter hundreds of times over a four-year period has been sentenced to five years in prison.
The name of the man, who is in his early 50s and has no prior criminal record, cannot be published in case it identifies his victim and her family.
On June 25, after a trial in provincial court, Judge Jennifer Barrett found the man guilty of sexual interference, sexual exploitation, invitation to sexual touching and sexual assault. The offences, which took place between Jan. 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2014, began when the girl was 13 and ended when she was 17.
The victim’s mother was in a common-law relationship with the accused, who stood in as stepfather for the girl and her younger brother, Barrett recounted Thursday. He moved into the family home in August 2010.
In July 2016, the girl tried to commit suicide. The mother suspected there was some link between her daughter’s suicide attempt and her partner and told him to leave before her daughter was released from hospital, said Barrett.
After he moved out, however, the mother and the accused continued their romantic relationship. That changed in December 2016, when the girl finally told her mother of the years of sexual abuse she had suffered at the hands of her stepfather.
The man engaged in grooming behaviour, Barrett found. After he moved in, he became very loving toward the 13-year-old girl, cuddling, hugging and kissing her and telling her she was beautiful, attractive and sexy.
The offending began with sexual touching. The accused performed oral sex on the girl and encouraged her to perform oral sex on him. He had sexual intercourse with her in 2011 when she was still 13, Barrett said.
“I found that the accused frequently and repeatedly engaged in sexual acts with the victim,” said the judge.
At the sentencing hearing in September, the victim, now a young woman, told the accused he had robbed her of her innocence and her last opportunity to experience a healthy father-daughter relationship.
“I will always resent you for the feeling of filth you left upon my skin and every second I’ve spent trying to scrub it away,” she said. “I will always resent you for isolating me from my family and friends. You took my childhood. You took my courage. You took my confidence, crumpled it down and contorted it into chaos. … I hope someday my skin will come clean. … I hope someday I won’t question or doubt the people I love.”
In her victim impact statement, the mother told the accused how devastated she was by her daughter’s suicide attempt and that her world came crashing down when her daughter told her of the sexual assaults by a man “who proclaimed his love and even asked me to marry him in the weeks before.”
The mother told the accused he had betrayed her in the worst possible way.
The man, who worked in construction, has three children of his own and spent time with them while living with the victim and her family. He did not accept the judge’s finding that he sexually offended against the girl before she was 16. He is, however, open to receiving counselling and has said he is sorry for his actions and the harm he has caused.
“The impact of his actions have been far-reaching and life-altering. … His culpability for these offences is high,” Barrett said.
The Crown sought a six-year prison sentence, the defence four years.
Barrett found the aggravating circumstances to be the age of the girl and the accused’s “serious and fundamental breach of trust” as her stepfather. He repeatedly abused her over four years, often multiple times in a day, and the offences took place in her family home, a place that should have been safe and secure.
“His offending against the victim occurred at a critical point in her life, the time of her life where she would normally have the opportunity to explore and develop close relationships with others in her own age,” the judge said.
Barrett found the mitigating factors to be the accused’s lack of criminal record, his respect for court orders and that he appears to be remorseful and accept some responsibility for his behaviour.
The man will now have a record for very serious criminal offences and will be required to register with the sex offender registry for life, Barrett said. He must provide a sample of his DNA to the authorities and has a lifetime firearms prohibition.
“This is a serious custodial sentence for a first-offender. … In my view, the sentence will send a clear message to [the accused] personally, as well as generally to other like-minded individuals in the community, that strict consequences will flow if convicted of a sexual offence against a child or a youth,” said the judge.