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'There's really no justice': Quebec mother, daughter speak out after man gets house arrest for years of abuse

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Warning: This story contains graphic details about domestic violence.

Jenny doesn't know the exact number of times her ex-partner beat her, threatened her or called her a b--ch because there were just too many to count.

For nearly a decade, he physically and verbally abused her and her young daughter in their family home in Akwesasne, a Mohawk territory that straddles Quebec, Ontario and New York state. Over those years, Jenny went to court multiple times to report domestic abuse, thinking it would change his behaviour but it didn't.

The last time her ex, Patrick, was before a judge at the Valleyfield, Que. courthouse in February, she thought he would finally get what she considered to be a tough jail sentence after being charged again in 2021. Instead, Jenny, a First Nations woman in her 40s, said she was let down once again by the justice system.

Her ex, who is in his 50s, received 12 months of house arrest and three years' probation, as well as several other conditions, after waiving his right to a trial and pleading guilty. He admitted to several charges for events that happened between 2009 and 2018, including beating and strangling his spouse, and punching her daughter when she was just five years old.

"It doesn't make up for the nine-and-a-half years he tortured us," Jenny said through tears in an interview with CTV News. "Made me feel like a hostage in our home, especially dragging those kids through that."

A Quebec woman is speaking out after her ex-partner received a house arrest sentence after admitting to physically and verbally abusing her and her young daughter for several years. (CTV News)

(Jenny is a pseudonym; her real identity is protected by a publication ban. CTV News is also not publishing her ex's real name because it could identify her in her community.)

Abuse was captured on video

After people cast doubts on the abuse, that's when she decided to pull out her cellphone and start recording.

Acts of violence captured on video were shared with CTV News, including one in which he punches her while she's holding a baby in her arms and calls her a "b--ch" and says "You wanna record sh-t?" Both Jenny and her child scream after he strikes her.

"My senses were always heightened. I was always scared. I never knew what was gonna happen so that's what I started to do. That was the only way for me to collect evidence to get out and to get my kids out," she said in the interview.

The videos were cited in an agreed statement of facts filed with the court in February, which detail some of the offender's disturbing pattern of abuse from 2009 to 2018, when the relationship ended. In 2012, he pushed Jenny's seven-year-old daughter down 17 stairs as she tried to escape him. She was covered in bruises. One day in January 2017, he waved a loaded gun in front of her and her mother during an argument.

"Both victims stated they were terrified because they did not know whether he would shoot them or himself," according to the court document.

On Oct. 13, 2017, when the kids weren't home, Patrick was beating Jenny, who was "afraid to fight back, because she thought he was going to kill her."

During another violent, drunken attack on her daughter in 2013, he pushed her down a hall in the home and then "he emptied a whole bowl of water on her and threw her outside of the house and locked the door, during winter. She froze outside for about 5 minutes before she was able to enter the house with an extra key, and not because the accused let her in," the agreed statement of facts stated.

Afterwards, she remembered him "getting angry and hitting her for having told someone at school."

Not worth sending offender to jail, defence says

Court records show Patrick has a lengthy history of domestic abuse charges involving Jenny. CTV News obtained an official audio recording of the February sentencing hearing when his defence lawyer explained to the judge why house arrest was an appropriate sentence.

The front entrance of the Valleyfield courthouse. (CTV News)

He said the offender had gone through therapy for his alcohol and anger issues, had stopped drinking, and was assessed by a psychiatrist after pleading guilty to domestic violence charges in a 2018 trial. In that case, he served approximately five months of pre-trial detention, and, after entering the guilty plea, he received a sentence of 90 days to be served on weekends, 240 hours of community service, and three years' probation.

The lawyer also revealed that the charges in the 2021 case were brought forward to Akwesasne police back in 2018, but for reasons that remain unclear there was no follow up.

"The statements she's giving today, she gave them in 2018. The reason why we didn't receive them, we don't know. We're not able to evaluate that," the lawyer told the judge.

"Is it worth to go and throw him back in jail again six years after this when we have proof of his rehabilitation? We don't think so."

The judge was also told about the risk of the case coming close to being thrown out due to unreasonable delays in light of the Supreme Court of Canada's Jordan ruling.

The court was also told that a Gladue report — a pre-sentence report that outlines an Indigenous offender's unique circumstances and can suggest alternatives to incarceration — was presented to a judge in the 2018 case but a new one was not done. The lawyer explained that the contents of the report allowed Patrick, a First Nations man, to benefit from a lower sentence at the time. A Gladue report, first introduced in Canada after a 1999 Supreme Court ruling, is a tool under the Criminal Code meant to address the overrepresentation of the Indigenous population in the prison system that allows judges to take into consideration factors such as the residential school system, discrimination, and mental health issues.

After pleading guilty in the 2021 case to charges of assault, uttering threats, criminal harassment, and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, the judge accepted the joint submission from the Crown and defence for the year-long house arrest sentence. Both the Crown and defence declined an interview request.

'He didn't get the time he deserved,' daughter says

The two victims are upset with the judge's ruling and say Patrick got off with another light sentence.

"I know for a fact he didn't get the time he deserved at all," the daughter said in an interview.

Jenny, right, and her daughter are still dealing with the trauma of living in an abusive household. (Joe Lofaro/CTV News)

Now in her late teens, she said she's been in therapy since she was seven years old in order to process her violent childhood. The agreed statement of facts stated she started witnessing physical abuse at home at age four and was always "living in a climate of fear."

She was around 10 or 11 when Patrick loaded a gun in front of her and started waving it around before putting it in his mouth. He asked her to pull the trigger. She grabbed the gun from him and threw it across the room.

"I thought something was gonna happen. I thought he would have turned it on anyone. I was scared," she told CTV News.

The years of abuse, she said, has lingering psychological effects.

"He was the only father figure in my life that I ever had. So thinking about how he was the only person that was really a father figure to me could do that to me. So after that, I just, I never trust anybody. Even though I try, I can't," she said.

Jenny said she fled to emergency shelters five times in the span of about nine years. Her longest stay was about three months, but with no long-term housing options she often returned home to her abuser.

"The scariest thing is to leave. What are you gonna do when you leave? There's nowhere to go, it's such a small community. He knows where to find me," she said.

"And then, just because there's such a housing shortage on reserves, you don't get much help in these shelters. You just go back and hope it just works out but it doesn't. It just gets worse."

Courts need to take domestic abuse more seriously: advocate

Claudine Thibaudeau, a social worker and clinical supervisor at SOS Violence Conjugale, said it takes an enormous amount of courage for people to report intimate partner violence to the authorities and she worries sentences like Patrick's could discourage some women from going to police.

"If the end result might be something that feels too lenient, they might actually feel safer not to press charges because they don't think that the consequences will be severe enough," she said in an interview.

Claudine Thibaudeau is a social worker and clinical supervisor at SOS Violence Conjugale. (CTV News)

Speaking generally about the problem, Thibaudeau said the courts need to take intimate partner violence more seriously.

"Just as violence committed against one's children should be taken extremely seriously, violence committed in our house and in the place where we should be safe, this should be taken extremely seriously, too," she said. "But it's a path, it's a process. There's a lot of work right now that's being done to increase victims' trust in the system."

Having gone to court several times to report her abuser, Jenny said she feels like "there's really no justice for victims."

"I mean in the province of Quebec, what do you do with a justice system like that?" she said.

"You try to get away, you can try to leave, you can try to report it but what's going to be done about it?"

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