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.