In 2013, Father George Ansel Smith pleaded guilty to 38 sexual offences involving 13 children, and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
In June of 2016, a new victim came forward, and Smith pleaded guilty again. Two weeks ago, he received an additional 15 months in prison.
I’m not interested in the disturbing details of the offence or in Smith himself. Instead, I think we should let the victim speak. I think that victim’s words are far more important than anything I could say, and they lay out the long-term effects of childhood sexual assaults.
This is from a victim impact statement filed with the court.
“ … I don’t remember much. However I do have one memory that stands out amongst the rest. My dad passed away … I remember going back to N.L. for the funeral. I remember walking into the house, opening the kitchen door and seeing (Mr. Smith) sitting at the kitchen table talking to my mom, he was actually sitting in the same place at the table where my dad would always sit. I remember quickly walking past him and going into the family room, as I felt very uncomfortable and did not want to speak to him, however I did not understand why at the time. I don’t remember anything after that. Very shortly after returning to Ontario, I found myself lying in a hospital bed for two weeks. I had tried to commit suicide. I loved my dad with all my heart and I know I was grieving his death, but I could not comprehend why I would try to actually take my own life. Now I understand that seeing him that day in my family’s home sitting with my mom, was a huge trigger for me and the emotions felt so overwhelming, that all I could think of was to die. The thought of him sitting there with my mom that day will be embedded in my memory forever. If my memory ever decides to fail me, I’m sure the mental picture will always remain.
"I realize that the Journey I am now currently on is going to be a long and difficult one, as it is just beginning, and I am starting off with nothing."
“What he did to me was wrong, and has affected me tremendously, in many ways and in all areas of my life, including my work life and in my personal life. Unfortunately over the years my actions have affected other people and that I cannot change. I have pushed away people who only wanted to be part of my life.”
“I have been alone for the last 13 years and during that time I have had no physical contact whatsoever with a woman. I don’t want to live like this, but I feel I have no other options. Because of the lifestyle I have lived, I have kept myself from enjoying some of the better aspects of life.”
It wasn’t just his childhood he lost: Father Smith’s latest victim gave up his future, too.
“I have never had children, something I will always regret. However lately I have been doubting my abilities to be a normal Father, and almost Thankful I never had children. What kind of life could I possibly offer them? The past four or five years have been a bit more challenging than the previous years. I found myself losing control of my life, and once again wondering where I went wrong.
“Since June 9, 2016, my life has taken a bit of a downward spiral. My health started to decline to the point where it affected my ability to work. Recalling the memories of what was done to me as a child has made it very difficult for me to function in my day-to-day life. I have a very hard time sleeping which makes it very hard for me to concentrate and be effective at work. I started missing work to the point where I was fired from my job in November 2016. Nine years of my life gone, six months after remembering what happened to me as a child. Needless to say that losing my job has created a few more obstacles for me to overcome. My Financial situation has gotten to the point where I had my vehicle repossessed seven months ago. My Health has declined to the point where I have lost almost 30 lbs. in the past six months.
“I feel as though my journey to recovery is just beginning, and that reporting what was done to me as a child to authorities was my first step. This isn’t something that I wanted to do, but I felt it was necessary in order to move on, and hopefully start to get my life back.
“I realize that the Journey I am now currently on is going to be a long and difficult one, as it is just beginning, and I am starting off with nothing. However the Journey that I had been on for the majority of my life was difficult as well, and apparently a journey down the wrong path. I’m hoping that this Journey that I have chosen to take, finally leads me down the right path.
“I was raised as a child to respect and love one another, never to cause harm to another. In School and in Church I was told how to act, as our actions affect other people. Seems a little ironic when I think about that now. It’s unfortunate how we chose not to practice what he preached.
“I was also told as a child that Priests were special people with special powers, sent down from God to lend a guiding hand, to guide us down the proper path in life. However what he decided to do with his hands, definitely didn’t put me on the right path.
“I made a comment earlier in regards to me trying to kill myself. There continue to be countless times when I think that I would be better off dead, a little more frequent in the past 15 months. However the thought of dying also scares me, I honestly don’t want to die anytime soon, as I feel as though I haven’t had the chance to live yet, I’ve only existed.
“It feels as though I have been locked away as a Prisoner for almost 40 years, in a Prison of my own, a Prison built with his hands. I also feel that after finally remembering what was done to me as a child, I am finally being given a chance to escape from this Prison.”
Never forget: it’s not only Smith who is doing time.
Russell Wangersky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @wangersky.