Pain, anger, and forgiveness

On Wednesday, Francine Desormeaux escaped jail time for raping two boys in the 1980s:

Desormeaux, 52, admitted to sexually abusing [James] Hoekstra over a five-year period beginning when he was 11 — along with another 12-year-old boy — in the 1980s when she was employed at the Child Study Centre at the University of Ottawa, a school run by the Ottawa Board of Education and Ecole M.F. McHugh School.

Court heard Desormeaux would socialize with the two boys outside of school, taking them on camping trips, out for dinner and to movies or rock concerts.

Desormeaux repeatedly engaged in oral sex with the boy before having sexual intercourse with him as many as a dozen times over a two-year period.

Desormeaux is a classic abuser. She groomed the boys before she tried anything. She banked on the boys’ trust. She emotionally manipulated them, going so far as to cry when James refused to have sex with her.

And she will not spend a day in jail for her crimes. Instead, she received an 18-month conditional sentence with 12-months of house arrest. In the prosecutor’s defense, the Crown asked for 18 to 24 months of jail time. The judge decided to sentence Desormeaux to house arrest. It is unclear whether she must register as a sex offender.

The sentence prompted very different responses from the victims in the case. James Hoekstra accepted the woman’s apology, stating, “Thanks Fran, that’s going to help me move forward.” He went on to say, “I felt sorry for her. The fact she is taking responsibility I think is important. Jail isn’t going to do anything for me.”

The other victim in the case, who remained anonymous, felt differently:

He stormed out of the courtroom as Desormeaux’s lawyer Vince Clifford shared the results of a psychiatric report that found Desormeaux was an extremely low risk to reoffend.

“I don’t want to sit here and listen to this crap,” the now 38-year-old man said loudly.

“By the end of the year I’m going to own your house,” he said to Desormeaux before leaving.

In a victim impact statement, the man described how he spent years on the street abusing drugs, threw himself in front of cars to kill himself and became a sex addict, all because of the sexual assault.

Desormeaux “annihilated” his trust for anyone in authority, he added.

It is worth noting that Desormeaux did not exactly take responsibility for her actions. The police arrested her after investigating a “historical complaint” filed in the late 1980s or early 1990s. That was back in 2010, so for two years Desormeaux either fought to have the case dismissed or protested her innocence before conceding that she did abuse the two victims.

That makes the second victim’s response understandable. Desormeaux is essentially walking away with little punishment while her victims must live with the aftermath. While the second man expressed his raw pain and anger, James said he forgave her (although he is the star of a film about a man whose cat tells him to kill child molesters).

Far too often people confuse forgiveness with forgetting. Yet it is not about forgetting anything. Forgiveness is simple letting go of the anger. It is not that you do not feel angry about what happened, only that you do not let it drive you. The second man seems driven and defined by his pain and anger. It fuels him, and perhaps for him letting go of it would leave him drifting. James still harbors that pain and anger, otherwise he would not make a film about killing child molesters, but it is not controlling him in any visible way.

It is not easy to let go of the anger when we live cultures that tell victims, especially male victims, to “get over it.” That refrain of “forget about it” probably does more to make people hold on to their pain and anger than anything else.

Yet to an extent, people who suffer abuse to need to get past it. It is always going to be a part of you, but if it is the part of you then it controls you. Sometimes forgiving people, i.e. letting go of anger and pain, is the first step to healing.

Do not get me wrong, I doubt Desormeaux cares that James forgave her or that the second man stormed out of court. Of course, I could be wrong. In the end, it does not matter what Desormeaux thinks. Forgiveness is not about the forgivee, but the forgiver.

Hopefully, that second man can come to forgive Desormeaux regardless of whether he sues her. For his own sake, he should not let that anger and pain fuel his life.

20 thoughts on “Pain, anger, and forgiveness

  1. An excellent post as usual TS. You speak a truth that is so important yet sometimes so elusive to find: How to move past it sometimes in spite of one’s culture, family, court cases or not, laws, etc. that harm or don’t help male victims.

    I’ve heard so many survivors who’ve had horrible, long drawn out, defeating, etc. experiences with legal measures, criminal and civil, that I don’t feel SOL reforms or any law after the abuse is a particularly great benefit to overall child safety. Even the potential motivation to pursue prevention to avoid large civil payments seems blunted by the option to fight it tooth and nail (the catholic church example) or do nothing hoping to avoid waking past problems.

  2. Allan, a lot of the problems you mention happen with organizations like the Catholic Church and Boys Scouts. They have lawyers who often do a good job of protecting their clients’ interests. Also, many states have limits on settlements, so even if the victims win, they might not receive much money. I recall one case in which a young man won a million-dollar suit, but because of the state’s law the amount was reduced to about $50,000.

    As for the criminal process, that is a different matter. Since so many cases are reported years after they happened, there is usually no evidence. That makes it much harder to prosecutor, especially when you add in that many people cannot recall dates, times, or locations from that long ago. I have a good memory, and I could never tell you what day something happened on unless it was a holiday or birthday.

    The only good thing, if you can call it that, is that the legal process is hell for everyone involved.

  3. “That refrain of “forget about it” probably does more to make people hold on to their pain and anger than anything else.”

    This is true. I can think of no better way of dismissing and trivializing another person’s pain than a very empty exhortation of “move on” and “get over it”. People who behave in that way towards others are basically sending the message that they don’t care. It’s emotionally non-supportive and destructive and is about them and their issues.

    Anger and rage doesn’t need to fuel anyone’s life, although it may necessary for a period, time or season. I suspect people who tend to feel that way (and unfortunately are then referred as being stuck) probably haven’t found the relief or understanding that would help them in their healing process.

    Moving past anger and hurt is a process. It doesn’t necessarily involve forgiveness, unless “forgiveness” is a part of one’s personal belief system. Not everyone ascribes to “forgiveness” as the only method or way to heal.

    I believe finding an emotionally safe place (person) to discuss, express or acknowledge anger and pain is essential to the “letting go” process. The thing is–process is individual and it isn’t up to anyone to decide what is best for you or to place time limits on that process. The victim is in charge of their own process. Emotionally safety tends to get shut down and stalls the healing process, if the swift response to the expression of emotional pain is one of how one must “get over it”, “forgive” and “move on.” Those remarks are disrespectful, disempowering and belittling.

    There are a few recent books now that deal with not being able to “forgive”, however it is typically not framed as “unforgiving”, since that has such a negative connotation. I don’t recollect the exact names fo the two books, but they do explore other methods and ways of healing that don’t ascribe to “forgiveness”. I think this would be of particular value to people who have been victimized by religious perpetrators.

    Thank you for your post TS.

  4. Im not sure if you know me James i believe you do my name is Marie Paul i was little blonde hyper did gynastiques and well tomboy pretty much, Im sad to hear your story i went through abuse but in a different way . Im 41 and wil forever be scared by some of the treatment from some of the staff. i was tested continuously at the childrens hospital like a ginny pig not knowing better as a child being 6 when i moved to csc and 12 when i moved out to be placed in cas crown ward to only get molested miss treated further in the system. I hope you finaly found some peace in your life if you have facebook look me up Marie Verdon. please take care and remember you are strong and have a voice take care of yourself god bless.

  5. I attended the CSC in the 1970’s, and physical, sexual and emotional abuse were happening then. What a horrible place, and every single staff member there , and parent or court involved in forcing us kids there, should be ashamed……deeply ashamed

  6. I was sent to the CSC in the 1970’s I was emotional and sexually abused buy boys at CSC. The staff didn’t care they failed to teach me how to read. I left at age 12 I could barely read. I felt the CSC had destroy me. I still feel the pain from the past I try to put the past behind. I cant talk about my experience at CSC to any one who will understand. It was a horrible place to spend a child hood. To all who suffered at CSC we didn’t learn to love compassion.

  7. Every one of us that suffered under the hands of those evil evil people, should receive a financial compensation from the University of Ottawa. Others have received it for far less in Canada. I saw an article for a certain Dr. S, and how wonderful she supposedly is, and her new endeavour with the camp space in Carp. Tell the full story Ottawa Life magazine please!!!!

    This Dr S was the HEAD of the CSC, should she not be held responsible in some way??? She was the director of an organisation where rampant child abuse happened, yet she is praised by the media???

    The emotional pain this evil school did of us has broken our hearts into pieces, then a giant crusher has come along after.

    Without prejudice

  8. Dr S was the CSC director during the time DR. HC a child psychologist who sexually and emotional abused children from 1970 to 1874. DR HC lived along side with 2 brothers B and G.
    After DR HC left the 2 brothers moved out but still worked for CSC.
    CSC was suppose to help children but instead destroy by sexual and emotional abuse.


  9. My point exactly, thanks, jailbird8, Dr S, that Ottawa Life magazine praises with such grandiosity, was the director of the CSC, and thus she was in charge of the one called HC. She did nothing to stop any abuse though, and thereby is just as guilty as HC. Shame on the CSC for sure, but shame on Dr S, and on Ottawa Life as well for not presenting a well rounded story. Singing Dr S’s praises only is simply irresponsible, without telling ALL the facts. Many of us were under the hands of the CSC and HC, and yes, of B and G at that time too, and suffered horribly. Why was child abuse tolerated in the 1970’s in society? If such a thing happened today though, oh the skies would be falling though, Shame on Dr S, Shame on Ottawa Life for such irresponsible reporting as well.

    Without prejudice

  10. It says a lot about the hypocrisy of the Ottawa people sadly, to have not made sure the CSC doors were not shut before others were abused. For some reason those of us who attended this evil establishment in the 1970’s and were abused sexually and other, was not enough, not enough was done, and so sadly others in the 1980’s suffered as well. I truly believe that all adults, involved in any way , shape or form in the CSC should be brought up on charges for the abuses, (yes MANY) that occured, and were allowed to continue as well.

    Without prejudice

  11. University of Ottawa used children from CSC as psychology study. Post graduated Students studying psychology used the children of CSC in there study. What did the students learn?
    Where they aware of the child abuse that took place in the CSC.

    Where the Children just science experiment? It was said using dog and cat fore science experiments where cruel. University of Ottawa used children as science experiments.
    maybe people should know.
    cruelty to children

  12. So since we were guinea pigs for the Univ of Ottawa’s experiments do we receive compensation now from them????? Shame……………………This child abuse has had horrible damage on many lives!!!! Shame Ottawa for letting it happen, shame Univ of Ottawa…..

    Even if you participate in a drug study or something, you get compensated for it….so Univ of Ottawa, I await your compensation for the abuse experiment please and thank you.

    Without prejudice

  13. any abuse is horrible, the strange thing is abuse happened ot us in the 19070s too, but the university of Ottawa did nothing, and thus let it happen again in the 80s

  14. Hello Everyone: This is James Hoekstra. I have finally finished the civil proceedings and even though I can kind of breath, I still have to deal with this everyday and now with the passing of Max Keeping (another one of my abusers) I and ready to let go of the hate I have for that man. My next journey. I have been molded into someone who can only find peace by helping others. Please check out my organization who helps children get over abuse. The website is I would love to hear any opinions or suggestions so we can do the best we can to help children.

  15. Oh and as far as me being a star in a movie about killing child molesters, it was the best therapy to get all my anger out. Fran was Dr Frankenstein and that made me Frankenstein the monster. I have fantasized about killing Fran and my other abusers for many, many years. I thanked her for taking responsibility because if she didn’t, I was worried what I would have done to her. Money has allowed me to help others, otherwise it doesn’t help at all. Plus the lawyers and others made all the money anyways. I felt raped all over again by the people who said they were helping me. Sounded real familiar.

  16. I went to school with both these boys. although I was also a child I remember thinking there was something “off” about how she dealt with 3 of the boys in our class. She seemed to revel in disciplining them and taking them to that room. I feel horrible for my part in it, I knew they could not control themselves and I would tease them to nreak the boredom of that classroom. They would lose it and the excitement would begin. Mrs. Bomburg must have known, if she did I hope s

  17. James I want you to know that I am so sorry for what happened to you. I am sorry that I played a part in your abuse and I am so sorry that the adults who should have been watching and intervening didn’t.

  18. I was there 1987- 1990, Also lived there. Thankfully I was not sexually abused,But I was mentally abused and to live there for 3 years was really traumatizing at the age of 11 years old.

    Sorry for everyone who did get abused.

    I wish I could find some of the kids I was with back then also, I remember a girl named Josée, There was 2 twins also that where there. and that’s about all I can remember, I was on Ritalin big time back then and to be honest I do not remember much, I do remember that Padded room they used to lock me up in the basement where to lunch room was, Also remember the trampoline, that was fun. Other then that, tests after tests.

    Regards Michel Lauzon.
    If any of you where there in the same year feel free to email me. ruber249 at gmail

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