WARNING: This story contains disturbing content. Discretion is strongly advised.
The words of a Grade 12 student who was kidnapped and repeatedly raped by Calgary brothers Cody and Corey Manyshots will not be heard—at least not in open court.
The Crown prosecutor made the request to read the statement on behalf of the victim Tuesday. One defence lawyer took no position, while the other objected.
The judge’s denial of the request has prompted backlash against the decision.
“That is so upsetting,” executive director of Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse Danielle Aubry said.
“It is so concerning that a judge would have that lack of consideration for someone who has been victimized in this way. That is just so disgraceful and totally, totally insensitive.”
In November 2014, the brothers kidnapped the 17-year-old girl from a northeast Calgary bus stop. For the next eight hours, they took turns raping and sodomizing her.
Watch below: Global’s past coverage of the Manyshots brothers’ case
The impact on the girl has been devastating, life-changing.
For those who have been sexually abused themselves, and know firsthand the importance of victim impact statements, the ruling was a shock.
“It gave me a voice. I can tell you I was 28 and I was very scared,” sexual abuse victim Sheldon Kennedy said. “That fear is real and that impact is real, and we wonder why sometimes the victim may not want to read their impact statement and it’s because they can’t.”
Hundreds of people have taken to social media to express their disgust with the decision.
Many are wondering why the common practice of having the Crown read the victim’s statement was denied in this case.
The law allows victim impact statements to be read by someone else, including the prosecution, but it is at the judge’s discretion.
Defence lawyer Balfour Der says provincial court Judge Terry Semenuk did nothing wrong.
“The purpose, and I repeat, the purpose of this victim impact statement is to allow the judge to know how this has impacted the victim. The judge in this case knows it because it’s been marked as an exhibit…the important thing is not that you all in the public get to hear what the victim has to say, that’s not what the Criminal Code section is for,” Der said.
He added the point of the statements isn’t to punish the accused.
But victim’s advocates say it’s critical the statements are read out and are calling on increased accountability for judges.
“The victim has a right to tell a person or people how they were impacted by this crime. That’s why we have victim impact statements,” Aubry said.
Alberta Justice declined to comment on the matter Wednesday as it remains before the court.
A date has yet to be set for the continuation of the sentencing hearing.