Nova Scotia

William Shrubsall survivor reflects on vicious attack 18 years later

A woman beaten in the driveway of a Halifax home by sexual predator William Shrubsall says she's relieved he's staying in prison.

Shrubsall was declared a dangerous offender in 2001 after a series of violent attacks on women

William Shrubsall was declared a dangerous offender after a series of violent attacks on women. (CBC)

Eighteen years after she was beaten in the driveway of a Halifax home by sexual predator William Shrubsall, Tracy Jesso maintains a self-imposed curfew: she must be home by 11 p.m.

It was with relief, then, that she learned this week that Shrubsall was denied release from prison by the Parole Board of Canada, which deemed him too great a risk to reoffend.

She was also surprised to learn the dangerous offender, despite an indefinite prison sentence, still gets regular chances to argue for his release.

"It bothers me," she told CBC News. "But that's his right."

Shrubsall's record of violence is lengthy. As a teen, he beat his mother to death. And in 2001 he was declared a dangerous offender following a series of vicious attacks on Halifax women, including Jesso. 

'Oh my Jesus'

Jesso was walking home from a bar one night in 1998 when Shrubsall jumped her and dragged her into a driveway. He slammed her face repeatedly into the ground, leaving her bloodied and battered. She remembers none of it.

"The last thing I remember is when he grabbed me and I said, 'Oh my Jesus,'" said Jesso, who was sexually assaulted.

"And the next thing I remember is when I was trying to walk home after the attack because my eyes were swollen shut and I remember just trying to turn my head enough to see, get some vision so I can get home."

Aftermath of attack still painful

Jesso said she believes her brain blocked the memory of the actual attack to help her heal. She suffered anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress and still experiences some symptoms to this day.

She testified against Shrubsall three times, once at his preliminary inquiry, then at his trial and finally at the dangerous offender hearing. She also went to court to have a publication ban on her identity lifted.

Jesso said Shrubsall tried to stare her down in the first hearing.

"And then the next two trials he cowered with his head down when I testified because he knew he had no power over me," she said.

Inspired to pursue social work

Jesso said she started speaking out after the trial to warn women that it isn't safe to walk the streets of Halifax alone late at night. She said women can have a false sense of security.

Not her. Not anymore. She has her curfew, and she said she feels safer in a large, bustling city like Montreal than she does in Halifax.

Jesso said dealing with the aftermath of the attack delayed her career. But it also gave her a focus. She said she was inspired to become a social worker so that she can help others.

"I had anxiety, I had depression, suicidal thoughts and I dealt with it by seeing a psychologist for many years," Jesso said.

"And I pride myself in helping others now."