Editor's note: The Guardian has confirmed the identity of the young woman who wrote the following first-person account about her experience during the trial of the man who was recently convicted and sentenced to six years in prison for sexual interference. A publication ban prevents any details that could identify her so we have taken the unusual step of publishing this opinion piece anonymously.
I am Aaron Crane’s victim. The girl who was sexually assaulted by him for months. I reported it to my school counsellor and police. I am now 16 years old and often get swallowed up with immense waves of panic.
When I first started the journey, right after Aaron Crane was arrested, I thought to myself, is the only thing I am going to get out of this journey a bunch of impersonal stories in the news? He’ll go to jail, and then what?
I couldn’t deal with the fact that I would see him being led out in handcuffs, and that would be it. People say, “It’s finally the end.” There is no ending to this story. It’s more of a journey.
So, I started thinking about what WOULD make this horrific journey have a positive ending. The only thing that made me feel joyful, powerful, and strong was advocating for youths in theatres, music lessons, schools and sports — anywhere that adults have a way to get into a child’s head, the way Aaron Crane got into mine. It was a game of manipulation and it lasted three long years.
Simply put, I can’t sit still.
I frequently get the question, “What made you want to come forward?” The truth is, there wasn’t one big moment where I realized what Aaron was doing to me was wrong. It was a gradual awakening, and even when I was sitting in my guidance counsellor’s office, sobbing, I still didn’t know why I did it. But, after a few weeks I came to realize that the people who were younger than me were at risk, too. They could have been hurt. And that was when I knew that I had to come forward. I didn’t want this to happen to anyone else.
When it was finally in the news in September, I was excited. Up until then, I was told to keep quiet about my story. MY STORY. I wrote a post that I shared to my Facebook. The post was meaningful; it brought some perspective to people who don’t know about the effects of grooming and manipulation, along with sexual abuse. It empowered me.
I got a call a few days later.
I had to remove the post because I was identifying myself as the victim in the case. I was in violation of the publication ban. I asked for it to be removed, and I wasn’t allowed.
In October, I wrote another post, and I received another call. This time I was asked to write a letter explaining the reasons why I wanted the publication ban lifted. It took me a week to gather all of the reasons, but in the end, the Crown agreed to present it to the court at the next hearing.
Nov. 23 was our next hearing. The judge read my letter and thought it was well written and persuasive. She wanted me to wait another month to make sure this is really what I want. I understood that. I respected it.
At the sentencing hearing I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Aaron Crane being taken away in cuffs. That wasn’t my goal for today. My goal was to have the publication ban lifted so after nine months of keeping quiet about MY OWN story, I could tell my story in my own words. I could become an advocate by telling my truth — not some reporter's two-minute recap.
I’m too young. I don’t know what I want.
Those are the reasons I am writing this anonymously. Those are the reasons I can’t share my story to prevent others from feeling the same way I am right now. I want to be an advocate for those who suffered from sexual abuse. Yet, for some reason, I can’t do it without being anonymous.
Sixteen is young. I get it. But this experience has made me so much older and so much wiser. Being in an abusive relationship with a 36-year-old will do that to you.
If there is any way I can shed some light on this broken part of society, I want to. I need to. I feel obligated to. Yet, there is one thing holding me back.
I will be back, P.E.I. And maybe next time you will know my name.
- If you or someone you know may be a victim of sexual assault, tell a trusted friend, family member or call the P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre for advice 902-368-8055.
- The victim should see a doctor for possible injury, pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
- It is up to the victim to decide whether to call the police.