Woman shares road to justice for alleged child sexual abuse: ‘It’s hard when someone doesn’t listen to you’ – Lethbridge | #childabuse | #children | #kids

WARNING: This story contains disturbing content

A southern Alberta woman who says she was sexually abused as a child is sharing her story and the roadblocks she says she faced in getting her alleged abuser in court.

Global News is calling the woman “Jaime” due to a publication ban on her identity, which she says she hopes will soon be lifted so she is able to openly share her story.

According to Jaime, much of her memory of being seven and eight years old were allegedly marred by daily sexual abuse by her mother’s former boyfriend, a man named Edmond Armit.

“More times than I can count on my hands,” she said. “That’s the whole recollection that I have is the abuse.

“It was every single night.”

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It wasn’t until Jaime’s mom left Armit a short time afterwards that she came forward to share what she says had happened to her.

“I remember we were (driving on the highway) and that’s when I felt he was finally gone,” she said.

“I asked mom ‘Is he finally gone?’ and she said ‘Yeah, why?’ and I said ‘So he can stop trying to have sex with me.’

“I just remember mom just losing everything in her face.”

Kristine Cassie, the executive director of the Chinook Sexual Assault Centre in Lethbridge, said it’s fairly common for victims to hide what’s happening to them, especially if it’s not an assault from a stranger.

“The vast majority of perpetrators of sexual violence in our society are people who have gotten themselves in positions of trust, they’ve ingratiated themselves either into professions or into homes were they have access,” Cassie explained.

“We tend to see (victims) not actually want to come forward with the information, for sometimes decades afterwards.”

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Jaime’s mom took her story to police more than a decade ago, and Jaime said she was questioned in what she says was a “extremely overwhelming” experience for a child.

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Ultimately the Crown did not pursue charges against Armit at that time, due to insufficient evidence.

“They didn’t think that me being a kid would be able to vouch for anything,”  Jaime explained.

A couple of years ago, now an adult, Jaime decided to go back to police in an effort to reopen the case. She said it had been “eating her up all these years.”

Jaime initially met with a traffic enforcement officer with the Lethbridge Police Service, who she says dashed her hopes of getting anywhere with the case.

“He had the worst demeanor,” Jaime said. “He was constantly sitting back smirking, he was saying that he hangs his reprimands on the wall.

“He completely shut me down. He said that, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this get won in court.’”

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Despite feeling extremely discouraged, Jaime’s mom kept pushing. They filed a complaint against the officer and continued to push for charges against Armit.

“It’s hard when someone doesn’t listen to you, right? Especially for a traumatic experience and trying to relive it and trying to do something about it,” Jaime explained.

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After successfully getting other officers involved, Armit was charged with three counts: invitation to sexual touching, sexual interference, and sexual assault.

He is set to stand trial beginning Tuesday.

Following an internal review, the traffic enforcement officer who Jaime met with initially was sanctioned for misconduct.

Lethbridge police declined an interview with Global News, instead providing this statement:

“The police service has an expectation of all its employees to treat everyone with respect and always communicate in a professional manner.”

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Jaime said she hopes by sharing her story, she can help others.

“It takes a lot of courage, but I believe it’s in every single one of us,” Jaime said. “Police should be doing their job right (too), so it was hard.”

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“It takes a lot of strength to come forward, and I commend people that are coming forward with that information,” Cassie added.

A 2020 study from The Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services revealed some staggering numbers about child sexual abuse victims.

“It was revealed that there’s about a 34 per cent prevalence rate for sexual abuse in our province,” said Cassie.

“If you were to equate that to the population of children in the city of Lethbridge alone, it’s about 6,800 children that we could estimate are being sexually abused.”

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing a crisis you can call the distress line of southwestern Alberta at 403-327-7905 or 1-888-787-2880. The line is available 24-hours a day.

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