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

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Crime and Punishment : Victims of Incest

"It's a relief. I am very satisfied with the number of years that I think is appropriate for what we endured."
"As long as he's alive, he'll be in the registry as a sexual predator. That's what he is, a sexual predator." 
Nathalie Lesage, 49, Gatineau, Quebec courtroom

"Reassertion of control can be very important to women who have been raped. They're [the three daughters of Jacques Lesage, Val-des-Monts, Quebec] ensuring that their father can't disappear into anonymity, and that he will be named and exposed."
Elizabeth Sheehy, law professor, University of Ottawa

"We've turned a page/"
"Don't hesitate. Don't hesitate to denounce those who are trying to keep [their abuse] a secret."
Lucie Lesage, 53, Gatineau, Quebec courtroom
Lucie Lesage, left, and her sister Nathalie at their father sentencing for incest Jan. 27, 2017
Lucie and Nathalie Lesage speak to reporters after their father was sentenced to 15 years in prison. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Justice, according to three sisters who were mercilessly set upon by their father when they were children, has finally been done. But after all the years of their lives living with the bitter memories and the vicious harm the man who is their father imposed upon them as he victimized them by viewing his daughters as  his sexual prey, it might seem to come as a hollow victory. Their lives were destroyed; they had no normal childhood and their adulthood was fraught with misery.

A week ago a jury convicted 79-year-old Jacques Lesage of three counts of incest and one of indecent assault. And then days later, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. For the unspeakable crimes of raping children. Children who had every reason to trust their father to protect them from the evils that the world sometimes visits on children. From time to time society is made aware that children are horribly abused by those they are most dependent on for emotional support and love.

This case of a man selecting his children for sexual gratification before they were ten years of age, impregnating one for the first time at age 13, then following that pregnancy up with another two resulting from violently forced sex, is unusual in the severity of its degrading wretchedness. Three little girls in one family living in fear of their father's constant predations on them; how much more vulnerable can children be?

His sentence is said to reflect the crime in its severity. And perhaps given his age, it might be considered so. Yet he ravaged three lives and those decades of loss cannot be retrieved. In his own defence at his sentencing hearing he sought compassion by claiming to have been a victim of incest himself; that a sister was also his mother. Would that normalize what he did to his children in any rational mind?

He married he said, at age 16 because his wife, at 13, was being sexually abused by her father, and he had a wish to rescue her. Obviously then, he was well aware that incest and sexual abuse are horrendous crimes against the innocent. Yet knowing that, he embarked on his own journey of imposing fear and pain on his children.Seeking to elicit sympathy for his spectacular failure as a human being?

He fathered eight children. He spoke of the abuse meted out by his father, and from brothers at a Catholic orphanage, as though his experiences should be viewed as a reasonable explanation for his own horrible lapse at humanity in his relationship with his dependent children. But just in case his experience as a child himself did not melt the hard hearts sitting in judgement of him as a disgustingly blemished human being he divulged that he had cancer and to halt the spread of the cancer had his genitals removed.

Nathalie Lesage had testified that she was five years of age when her father began molesting her. That molestation culminated in the first rape attack by her father when she turned eight. Which was followed by a childhood of never-ending panic resulting in an adult who felt her life was hell, leaving her with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

A third daughter, Chantal Knippenburg, 45 gave evidence against her father, but the judge acquitted the man of sexual assault and indecent assault in her instance. He is yet to be tried on one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference relating to an 11-year-old girl, in 2001. The daughters took steps to publicly reveal their names to ensure that in turn their father's name would be publicly revealed so he would not remain an anonymous offender.

And while prosecutors had preferred a sentence of between 20 to 22 years in prison, lawyer for the defence Antonio Cabral argued for a prison term of no more than five to seven years. But Quebec Superior Court Justice Michel Pennou felt it necessary to impose a sentence reflecting the serious nature of this man's crimes.

The lengthy prison term is lessened given credit for time served prior to trial. Should he live that long, he will serve 11 years and 8 months in prison. Jacques Lesage has been in prison since 2014, when his daughter Lucie went to police to report her father's criminal past. She did so just after her mother died. 

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