British Columbia

He raped her 10 years ago. Now she wants his latest victims to know they're not alone

For years after Michael Bannon was sent to prison for raping her when she was 17, R.H. kept tabs on his his whereabouts.

As Michael Bannon serves 14 years for running an underage prostitution ring, an earlier victim speaks out

R.H. now has her 'dream job' and a son she adores, but the abuse took a heavy toll on her life. (Daniel Taekema/CBC)

For years after Michael Bannon was sent to prison for raping her when she was 17, R.H. kept tabs on his whereabouts.

Then, a few months ago, the Ontario woman typed Bannon's name into Google, and discovered he was in trouble once again — this time in Vancouver, where he'd admitted to running an underage prostitution ring involving children as young as 14.

"All I want to do is reach out to them and say I'm sorry that I couldn't stop it. He only got so much time. He got out, and he just kept on doing this stuff.," R.H. said of the victims.

Most shocking of all was the news that one young woman had died of a drug overdose before she had a chance to testify against Bannon.

"I would even fly out there and talk to them, so they know it's not just them and they can get past it. I'm 100-per-cent open to those things because … I don't want to see another one of them overdose."

As a victim of sex offences, R.H.'s identity is protected by a publication ban. In 2010, Bannon was convicted in Toronto of two counts of sexual assault for forcing her into vaginal and oral sex, and sentenced to 26 months, according to documents from Ontario's Superior Court of Justice. He would be sentenced to another 30 months for tax fraud while he was behind bars.

B.C. Supreme Court heard that Bannon was out on parole for those crimes in 2014 when he began putting together the highly lucrative Vancouver prostitution ring that would eventually land him a 14-year prison sentence.

Meeting 'Shane Silverthorn'

R.H. told CBC that she was an insecure 16-year-old when she met Bannon, uncomfortable with her weight and worried no one would ever love her.

They met in early 2008 on an online dating site, where Bannon, then 25, was going by the alias "Shane Silverthorn." He made her feel good about herself, and they finally met in person that November.

"We decided that we wanted to be together. We were happy. And then December 16 happened," R.H. remembered.

R.H. met Bannon through an online dating site. (Getty Images)

That's the day Bannon sent her a text message asking, "Are you ready to get beaten and banged?" and drove to the rural home where she lived with her family, according to court documents. She testified he threatened to drive the car into the house if she didn't leave with him.

He took her to a tiny bachelor apartment above a bakery in Toronto, where she stayed for the next five days. 

On Dec. 21, the day of Bannon's arrest, R.H. discovered that he was running a fraud operation out of the apartment. The discovery frightened her, according to court documents, and she refused Bannon's sexual advances.

He sexually assaulted her twice that day. The second time, she cried as he raped her.

Police raided the apartment that night, after R.H. reached out to friends and family online. She wouldn't see Bannon again until she testified against him.

Bannon was charged with unlawful confinement along with sexual assault, and R.H. testified that she was held in the apartment against her will. He was convicted in June 2010 on two counts of sexual assault, but acquitted on the unlawful confinement charge.

'It sure does take a toll'

It's been a slow climb to reclaim her life in the decade since the assaults, but at 27 R.H. has built a satisfying career and now cares for a son she adores.

"I wouldn't be who I am now without it, but it sure does take a toll, and it took a really big toll on my family," she said of the abuse.

R.H. wants Bannon's other victims to know that they can get past their abuse at his hands. (Daniel Taekema/CBC)

If she could speak with the young people who were exploited by Bannon in Vancouver, she'd give them two pieces of advice about recovering from their trauma — create a goal to work toward, and don't skip your therapy.

"My biggest goal was to go to college, and get a diploma, get a job, do something to help somebody," she said.

She now has her "dream job" working with children, including kids from lower income families, and feels like her life has a purpose.

The therapy part of the equation took a bit longer to appreciate. Though she visited a counsellor a few times after Bannon abused her, it wasn't until years later, when she was going through a divorce, that she began seeing someone regularly.

"I wish I would have continued when I first went, after the fact. I was broken, and I didn't know how to deal with it," she said.

She still struggles with intimate relationships, and refuses to go online to meet people.

But having a small person to care for helps keep things in perspective.

"Being a mom, that's my biggest thing," she said. "Being there for my son and knowing that I can do my best to protect him from these things ever happening to him ... if I didn't have him, certain times I don't think I'd be here."

About the Author

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is an experienced B.C. journalist with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.