The Prey: An Account of Denunciation

I was a victim of sexual assault by my father from the age of two until I was 19 years old. Despite all my efforts to forget it, I could not stop thinking about my experiences. I replayed the images of that assault over and over again in my mind, dealing with all kinds of feelings that were hard to bear: hate, anger, violence, resentment, incomprehension, etc. I hated myself and was angry with myself for having submitted to and put up with so much violence. I blamed myself for not having known how to defend myself. I felt responsible and dirty.

All these emotions turned me into a workaholic. I worked so much that I became depressed. I always felt I was incapable of facing the real problem, which just caused me to sink more deeply into depression. All the strategies I had developed to hide my past or to escape from it were no longer working. Despite all my avoidance, I soon realized that my aggressor was free and that I was the one in prison. Then one day I knew I had a choice to make: speak out or die!  I decided to speak out. The charge was laid in June 2004.  After a two-year trial, a guilty verdict was finally delivered. The aggressor is currently serving a seven-year prison term. 

The judicial process is painful and difficult but I can tell you that the police, the Crown Attorney and the people at Centre d’aide aux victimes d’actes criminels ( CAVAC) were exceptional. They believed, liked and supported me. It was not easy talking about my past, but it was liberating. I did not go to court in order to prove to anyone that I was telling the truth. There were two people who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything I was saying was true: my aggressor and me. I wanted him to know what he had done to me and the consequences of his actions on my life. 

I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, the wounds from this do not heal just by speaking out.  But,  I am doing much better. I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I have no regrets and even though it was difficult, long and painful, I would go through it again. It is the best thing I have done for myself in my whole life. Today, I am free. I talk about it as often and as freely as I choose. I am not a slave to my past. Yes, I still sleep badly. And, yes, I still have flashbacks, but the impact on me is not the same. I am learning to live rather than just surviving, and it is much better than before. I can finally breathe!

I was fortunate to have help and support in my efforts from CAVAC advocates, all of whom were skilled and understanding. When I decided to file a criminal complaint against my aggressor, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was desperate and worried. My advocate helped me manage the stress of the court proceedings. I was safe, accompanied and supported throughout the whole process. CAVAC was the central and key element. I felt that I had a place to go where someone would listen to me and understand. There was also an actual place at the courthouse where I could be alone and cry. I always felt welcome, listened to and understood. The CAVAC advocates took the time to answer all my questions, to explain each step of the legal process. They also took the time to answer my family’s questions and make them feel safe. CAVAC’s tremendous accessibility gave us a reference point to manage and calm our fears and anxieties. The organization also gave us huge moral support and informed us of our rights. One of several things I learned from CAVAC was that there was compensation for people who are victims of crime that could help me financially.

I can never thank CAVAC enough for all the help they gave me and my family. I continue to visit my advocates regularly because, despite the fact that the trial is over, there are still bridges to cross. I have to understand and manage things like the appeal of the sentence filed by my aggressor, my rights as a victim in the event of parole, etc. 

I can assure you that organizations like CAVAC and VCI are there for a reason Without their support, I would never have made it through these events with as much peace of mind.

Martine Ayotte
Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec.

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