Survivor of childhood sexual abuse on P.E.I. seeks justice for others

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on August 1, 2015

Kate Eastman, 26, of Charlottetown is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who is determined to make a difference in the lives of others who have gone through similar devastation.

©JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN

Years upon years of struggle for Kate Eastman lead her to begin program called Turn on the Lights

She just could not let him get away with it.

Kate Eastman, 26, of Charlottetown endured for many years, beginning when she was just a young girl, the confusion, hurt and devastation that was born from ongoing sexual abuse by her stepfather Patrick Arthur Timmons.

She just wanted the assaults to stop. So much so, she even contemplated suicide as early as age eight.

Still, she endured in silence. The silent suffering would span many years.

Eastman eventually made the difficult decision to seek justice.

She went to Charlottetown Police Services on May 28, 2012, informing a police officer that Timmons had been sexually abusing her since she was around the age of six years old.

MORE: Reaching out

Accusing her stepfather of sexual assault would prove to be an excruciating process, leaving Eastman with second thoughts about her action.

“Sitting in there (with the police) for five, six hours was horrible,’’ she recalls.

“And the entire process: oh my gosh, the amount of times you want to give up on it, it’s unbelievable.’’

She did not give up. Her stepfather, as a result, faced the courts.

Timmons, who entered guilty pleas to charges of invitation to sexual touching and sexual exploitation was sentenced in July 2013 to four years in a federal correctional facility.

MORE: Under reported

In passing sentence in P.E.I., Supreme Court Justice Gordon Campbell described Timmons’ conduct as reprehensible and said it called for serious denunciation.

Not only was the conduct despicable, it wreaked havoc on Eastman’s life.

Eastman looked to Timmons with hope that he could be a man who could step into the loving and nurturing paternal role left vacant by her biological father’s death when she was just a young girl.

Timmons failed miserably.

“I kind of looked at it like ‘you were supposed to be a father to us, and you weren’t,’’’ she says.

When Timmons was charged, and later sent to jail, for sexually assaulting Eastman, the fallout extended to Eastman’s mother and to Eastman’s three siblings: two brothers and a half-sister.

Great emotional and financial hardship ensued.

Her mother lost her home.

Her siblings struggled with both the discovery of a father committing such a vile crime, but also with the reality that dad was being removed from their lives.

Emotions ranged from anger to depression.

So Eastman suffered for years keeping silent while allowing the abuse to continue, but she also was harshly rewarded with great pains for holding Timmons to task.

Understandably, many factors came in to play that had her questioning whether it was worth pursuing charges.

Ultimately, the answer was a resounding yes.

“There is not a moment I ever regret going through with it,’’ she says.

“I understand fully that it is terrifying coming forward, but in the end I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I think it was the best thing that could have happened for everybody.’’

Now she is determined to urge other people to speak out on sexual assault, and to pursue charges against their abusers.

“I don’t want to see these people (who sexually abuse children) walk the face of the earth,’’ she says.

“There’s way too many of them.’’

Eastman could not be a more determined advocate.

First, she successfully pursued charges against her stepfather, who was recently denied parole. She is still pursuing further charges against Timmons for sexual abuse she alleges took place in Ontario.

Eastman spent the past four months determinedly going through a cumbersome process to successfully have a publication ban lifted (an extremely rare occurrence in sexual assault cases in P.E.I.) so she could go public with her story without the need to conceal her own identity.

In March, she also started, along with her mother, a community organization called Turn on the Lights.

The organization helps spread awareness of childhood sexual abuse, giving families and survivors a place to talk and heal.

The cause does not end there for Eastman.

She is also looking to draw on her years of turmoil to help fuel a caring career.

She will be entering her third year of Family Studies at UPEI in September with a particular focus placed squarely on family violence.

She would love to have a career working with victims of crime, notably victims of childhood sexual abuse.

Eastman’s advice to parents when a child says he or she is — or has been — sexually abused? Believe them.

“I was very fortunate in the fact that my mom automatically believed everything that I said,’’ she says.

“There are definitely cases where that is not happening.’’

jday@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/PEIGuardian

Reaching out

Victims of sexual assault can call P.E.I. Victim Services at 902-368-4582 to seek assistance with the criminal justice process or to access other supports and services they might need.

To learn more about a new community organization that helps spread awareness of childhood sexual abuse, visit www.turnonthelights.ca.

BY THE NUMBERS

Under reported

6 of every 100 incidents of sexual assault are reported to the police.

1 to 2 per cent of “date rape” sexual assaults are reported to the police.

1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime.

2 to 4 per cent of all sexual assaults reported are false reports.

60 per cent of sexual abuse/assault victims are under the age of 17.

80 per cent of sex crime victims are women.

79 referrals of sexual abuse cases per year were made to P.E.I. Victim Services between 2011 and 2014.