Sex abuse allegations rock coastal Labrador town

For years — even decades — girls and women in Mary's Harbour say they've hidden from a man who threatened them to keep quiet.

Man in Mary's Harbour, convicted in 2009, faces 28 additional charges against 5 more girls

Serious allegations

9 years ago
Duration 5:45
Mary's Harbour man faces sexual assault charges dating back to 1981

For years — even decades — girls and women in Mary's Harbour say they've hidden from a man who threatened them to keep quiet.

Now they are breaking their silence.

Ralph Rumbolt, 52, is a registered sex offender in Mary’s Harbour. In 2009, he was convicted of two sexual assault charges against a local teenager. He was sentenced to a year’s probation, community service, and was placed on the sex offenders registry for 10 years.

Today, Rumbolt faces another 28 charges against five more girls. Most of the charges are sex-related. Others are for uttering threats. The alleged victims were all under the age of 16.

Rumbolt continues to live in Mary’s Harbour — a town of fewer than 400 people, the location of those alleged crimes, and where some of those pressing charges continue to live.

"It's terrifying,” one of his alleged victims, Casey, told CBC News.

“I still have nightmares sometimes about it."

There is a publication ban in place on her case, and the others. CBC News has changed the names of all alleged victims and potential witnesses.

Casey says Rumbolt assaulted her multiple times, about a decade ago, when she was between five and seven years old.

She told her parents several years ago, but they didn’t go to police, because she told them she was afraid to have it revealed publicly.

“I was just like, scared that he might hurt me, or even my mom or dad,” she said. “I just didn't want anything to happen to anybody.”

Now, she’s pressing seven charges against Rumbolt.

After hearing about another little girl, Sabrina, Casey says she had to report the abuse.

Sabrina is younger than 10. In January, she told her parents that Rumbolt had been sexually assaulting and threatening her over the past few years.

Unlike some parents, hers didn’t ignore the allegations: they called police.

After that, Casey and three other victims decided to come forward.

“I had no choice, like, I didn’t want to see anybody else get hurt,” Casey says about going to police now. “I didn’t want to see him get away with it.”

Others stayed quiet

The alleged crimes date back to 1981. In more than 30 years, only one girl ever raised allegations against Rumbolt before now.

Some in the community believe what happened after that teenage girl came forward may help explain why others have stayed quiet too.

Rumbolt attacked another girl, Jessica, in her bedroom in 2007.

Mary's Harbour is a town of fewer than 400 residents on the southeast coast of Labrador. (CBC)
That was “my last straw,” she says. For years, he leered at her, made crude comments, and grabbed at her body, she says.

Then he began getting more brazen and assaulting her.

She says she would hide when she heard him approaching on a snowmobile.

One night, however, he entered her bedroom while she was sleeping and sexually assaulted her.

Rumbolt pleaded guilty to that crime and another sexual assault against her. He was convicted of both.

Despite the convictions, many in the community turned against Jessica for speaking out.

"My whole family, they stopped talking to me. They wanted nothing to do with me — they blamed me,” Jessica told CBC News.

“And I always said to mom, I said, ‘I don't understand why they're blaming me. He pleaded guilty.’ … Everybody knew, but everybody still kept it a secret. Hush, hush kind of thing."

‘Shameful’ treatment 

“That was shameful,” said Audrey, a Mary’s Harbour resident, of the way people treated Jessica.

“It wasn’t her fault and yet she got the blame for everything. And he went off … and that was it, laughing, joking, carrying on, as if nothing ever happened.”

Audrey is among those who now believe that shaming victims like Jessica, and remaining silent, has hurt girls the town.

Ralph Rumbolt, 52, of Mary's Harbour was sentenced last week to one year in jail and two years probation for sexual crimes. (Facebook)
"In a way, we're all guilty, because we kept our mouths shut,” Audrey says.

She is personally connected to a number of alleged victims. She had heard allegations against Rumbolt for many years, but did nothing.

“It's cruel, isn't it? In a sense, it's cruel."

Audrey says it’s time to take the community back.

“Now is the time. Enough is enough. We’re not sacrificing our little girls for anybody else.”

Court appearance set for April

Rumbolt declined comment when contacted last week by CBC News.

He is scheduled to appear in provincial court in late April.

Until then, Rumbolt has signed an undertaking to keep the peace, not be alone in the presence of anyone under the age of 16, and live at his Mary’s Harbour residence.