Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Aggravated Assault

"It's not much [prison sentence meted out to attacker] ... it took me longer to get better."
"In 16 months, he'll look normal, he'll be able to change his name and in 16 months I'll still be scarred."
"My son will grow up and ask, 'Mom, what happened to you?'"
"The first shot he threw at me I got it directly in my eye, and all I could think was 'I'm going to be blind'."
Tanya St-Arnauld, Montreal
Tanya St-Arnauld, 29, had laser treatments in Miami in an attempt to help the scars she was left with after the acid attack. (Photo courtesy of Tanya St Arnauld)

Tanya, at 29, had a romantic, live-in relationship with 29-year old Nikolas Stefanatos, a relationship that, at six months' duration was still in its initial stages. She may have felt she knew his character and personality, but that too was the initial learning stages. What was eventually revealed was his uncontrollable propensity to violent acting out. A week before he threw acid on her, it was a bottle of juice he splashed over her.

And just before he tossed the acid over her he had thrown ketchup and mustard at her to punctuate an argument they were engaged in after a party night out. Before that, he had abandoned her in a parking lot for six hours before eventually returning to pick her up. She could not, at that juncture, have been unaware of her boyfriend's strange, sociopathic and intimately threatening behaviour. And was perhaps at that point re-thinking the relationship.

But then, it happened, two years ago. In the summer of 2012 he threw a bottle of household acid in her face. It took no time at all before the harsh chemical seared into her arms, chest, back and over her head, dripping into her eyes. In a panic she fled her apartment, stripped off the acid-soaked clothing in the hall,  where a neighbour took her in and began helping her wash the acid off in a bathtub before the arrival of first-responders.

The acid had gone immediately to work, burning across her upper body and searing a five-inch-wide channel at the back of her scalp. Once responding paramedics had her in hospital she was in such a severe state she was twice placed into a drug-induced coma. The August 2012 attack ended with Tanya St-Arnauld suffering burns to 20% of her body. Purple burn welts remain on her arms and her neck. She is still undergoing remedial laser treatment.

Nikolas Stefanatos pleaded guilty last month to aggravated assault. Perhaps his history of violence could have predicted that had occurred. And presumably when Tanya St-Arnauld began her relationship with the man she had no knowledge of his past exploits in psychotic outbursts. He was found guilty of assault earlier, in 2006, and sentenced to two years of supervised probation.

For the acid assault he could have faced up to 14 years in prison, but his sentence, when it came down on Tuesday was of a 56 month duration. Which may sound considerable, but certainly not to the victim. He has been in prison since the assault took place, having been denied bail. At his sentencing he received a credit of 1.5 days for every day spent in prison. The expiration date of his sentence is now April 2016.

Still, Justice Helene DiSalvo felt that the sentence she handed down, represents an "unequivocal message" of deterrence, in her judgement. Critics in the province speak of the sentence as a sentence bonbon. For her part, Ms. St.Arnault acknowledges the reality of the sentence and that he could be freed from jail even earlier if he secures early release on the basis of good behaviour while in prison.

Leading her to muse that once her former boyfriend's prison term is expired she might very well move elsewhere. A precautionary measure. Better late than never. Since one never knows....

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