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

Monday, May 18, 2015

Testimonials of Rage

"We've been hoping for this day. Actually we were hoping he would go to jail first."
"He tormented many, many, many boys in Mount Albert. Unbelievable what one powerful individual can do."
"He was my father's best friend. His children, his three sons, were the best friends of my three youngest brothers."
"The community has rallied around Owen and not my brothers. We would go out to the courthouse and he would have two rows of supporters."
Barb Willitts, Mount Albert, Ontario

"I did everything I could to avoid being alone with the man. The number of times he groped me in church, in my parents' back room...."
"He didn't miss many boys in Mount Albert. I've had calls from some men who said, 'Thanks so much for coming forward, but I couldn't do it'."
Robert Willitts, Selkirk, Manitoba

"He was the only doctor in town. We would trust him as well as you would trust your very closest friend. I'm a registered nurse, so I've seen a bit of life, but I never thought I would have to deal with anything like this. There's been a lot of anger involved."
"I just feel sorry for the family and we're just sorry this ever happened."
Jean Willitts, mother of Barb and Robert, Mount Albert, Ontario
Dr. John Owen Slingerland, shown in February 2013, has been found guilty of assaulting young boys between 1959 and 1970.
RICHARD LAUTENS / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO   Dr. John Owen Slingerland, shown in February 2013, has been found guilty of assaulting young boys between 1959 and 1970.

The Willitts family's most valued friend was one of the most prominent citizens of the town. He was the town doctor. He was a loyal member of the local United Church. John Owen Slingerland was also a scout leader. Eventually his prominence and his professional capacity led to his becoming the chief medical officer of York Region. Professional prestige, social standing, community respect, he had it all. He also had a family, and was father to three children of his own.

In 2013 he was sentenced to two years in prison on four counts of indecent assault, a charge and a conviction reflecting his penchant for pedophilia. The incidents that led to the charges took place between 1959 and 1970. As so often happens, very young boys who are sexually molested suffer in silence, tell no one, and in their later years, having mused on and resented their loss of childhood, take steps to have their tormentor see justice.

John Owen Slingerland maintained that he was innocent of all charges laid against him. He had appealed his conviction and the verdict, and while his appeal was working its way through the court system he spent no time behind bars. But over the weekend news of his death at 92, was revealed. He had been suffering from heart problems. A man with a distinguished lifetime career had during that lifetime preyed on young boys.

Robert Willitts was five years old when Dr. Slingerland first began molesting him. Apart from Robert Willitts and his brother, another three men came forward with similar claims. Robert is now 56 years old, living in Manitoba, and owns a Canadian Tire store there. Other victims of Dr. Slingerland are now in their maturing years as well. It is understood that not all the victims of this man sought to reveal their childhood experience through a misguided sense of shame, or a wish not to recall their suffering.

Another Willitts sibling, Will, spoke during the trial about the man whose professional and social standing in the town gave him the opportunity to molest young boys, with total impunity. Even now, his reputation was such after so many years, that the town stood behind him, supporting the man who had been the only town doctor for decades, a man respected in his church and his profession.

"He got away with what he wanted to. He was the top dog in a farming community. He was the best-educated man, he was the pillar of society", said Will Willitts, now a journalist living in Sydney, Australia. He, like his sister Barb, said he was "relieved" at news of the man's death. "He's been controlling my life since he abused me at 5 years old", said Will Willitts. "He robbed me of my boyhood."

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