Hamilton

Young victim in Craigslist sex abuse case speaks for herself — with a drawing

Her victim impact statement was a crying stick figure. It was one of several gut-wrenching moments in court Friday as lawyers presented arguments for sentencing of the man who marketed her online for abuse.

Warning: This story contains graphic details

A Hamilton man appeared for a sentencing hearing at John Sopinka Court House Friday. The case was related to a seven-year-old girl being offered for sex on Craigslist. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

She's a seven-year-old girl who was offered to pedophiles for sex on Craigslist. And this is her victim impact statement: a drawing of someone crying.

The stick figure, which appears genderless, has its eyes squeezed closed, its mouth a stark half-circle frown. The tears are large and drawn in green marker. Across the page, a figure in black looks on.

This exhibit was just one of the dramatic moments in Hamilton court Friday during a sentencing hearing for the ex-boyfriend of the girl's mother. The man, 35, has pleaded guilty to making and possessing child pornography, sexual interference and voyeurism.

The Crown wants a 15-year sentence. His lawyer is arguing for 10. He'll be sentenced on Feb. 16. 

Friday's arguments were gut-wrenching. The man sat in the prisoner's box with his feet shackled, a pale earring in his ear and his dark hair slicked back into a ponytail. He stared at the floor as assistant Crown attorney Janet Booy relayed the facts.

The girl was living with her mother and the man when he made her available for abuse via the online advertising service, Booy said. She was abused vaginally, orally and anally.

Booy said the ex-boyfriend, who isn't being named to protect the girl's identity, waited until others in the house were asleep before he invited adults over to abuse the girl, too.

"It was, at one point, three adults on one seven-year-old child for their own depraved sexual gratification," she said.

'Like a piece of property'

"He advertised her like a piece of property on Craigslist. It was planned and deliberate abuse."

The man also had a collection of child pornography that included 4,117 images and videos, Booy said. All but 147 were of the seven-year-old girl.

There were sniffles and tears throughout the courtroom as Booy mentioned the girl holding a doll of Bert from Sesame Street as she was being abused, or clutching a Dora the Explorer blanket.

The man also took video of the girl through a hole in the bathroom wall when she was naked, she said, and he shared it with others.

Man was abused as a child

The man, who is Indigenous, suffered an abusive childhood himself, said defence attorney Cody Cornale.

With a background marred by the effects of residential schools, the man's step father abused him for years during his childhood, Cornale said.

It's not an excuse, Cornale said. The man is remorseful, and eager to get counselling and serve time for his actions.

But as outlined in a Gladue report, which is a pre-sentence report for offenders with an Indigenous background, his life was "marked by sexual and physical abuse, as well as alcohol and drug addiction" that lasted generations, Cornale said.

Booy said that's more reason why the man should have known better.

Torn to the core

"He himself knew the pain of people not listening to him as a child saying he was abused, and yet he perpetuates it in the forms we have before us today," she said.

Four other people were charged in relation to the abuse of the girl. Last month, Sonya Lucas was sentenced to six years and five months.

As for the girl, she's nine now and living in the Georgian Bay area with her dad, her aunt said. She's taking dance lessons. She drew the picture at her aunt's house.

Fifteen years isn't nearly long enough, the aunt said.

"Just hearing all the graphic details has torn me to my core."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She often tweets about Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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