Sep 022015
 

Update

Craig Handasyde has been sentenced to twelve months in jail followed by a 2 year “community corrections” order for abusing men over a 14 year period and keeping that a secret for another two years.

The judge had this to say about the nature of the sentence: “Every attendance {for supervision and mental health treatment} will serve as a reminder of the inappropriateness of your behaviour,”

When will we move past using words like “inappropriate” to talk about sex crimes? It’s more than inappropriate to, say, punch or steal from someone – it’s illegal. Unwanted and unconsented sexual contact must also be recognized as illegal, not reduced to being morally inappropriate.

The judge also cited handasyde’s deep remorse and guilt as part of the reason for the short sentence. These are feelings – moral consequences if you will – not legal or social.

Legally, this case is over, but the victims won’t forget. Their families won’t forget.

We shouldn’t forget either.

***

A support worker for people with disabilities recently plead guilty to sexually abusing some of his clients.

There’s so much wrong here that I don’t even know where to start.

We’re told that Craig Handasyde is a religious man, that he has eight children, that thirteen people (including two ministers) stepped up to give him a character reference.

We’re told that he voluntarily resigned from his job, and, later, turned himself in to the police.

Does anyone stop to question the time lapse between the last time he claims to have abused someone (2011) and when he resigned from his job (2013)?

Does anyone stop to remember that the abuse he’s admitted to and now claims to want to make amends for spanned thirteen years? (That’s more than a decade, half a generation.)

Do any of his esteemed thirteen references (one for each of the years he violated his clients’ trust?) stop to ask themselves how they could have so deeply misjudged this man?

We’re told by his lawyer that “What emerges is a picture of a man who is extremely passive and lacks the ability to assert himself.”

Let’s look at some other facts:

  • He admits to ignoring the efforts of one of his victims to push him away.
  • He invested time and energy in extra training and certifications, thereby winning the trust of his clients’ families and his employers. This means less supervision, more of a chance to do what he wanted, when he wanted.
  • Being an abuser is about control, and has jack all to do with sexual orientation or attraction. Translation: He didn’t do this because he’s gay.

Craig Handasyde is an abuser. He worked in a position that gave him power over others. He worked with some of the most marginlized and invalidated people. Maybe he felt as if he couldn’t assert himself, but he definitely didn’t act like it.

The claims Handasyde’s lawyer is making on his behalf don’t come anywhere near justifying his behaviour. After all, Where was the conscience that made him turn himself in when someone was pushing him away, telling him, more clearly than words ever could, to leave him alone?

We’re supposed to see a man who was in incredible psychological pain.

He may have been, but the hard truth is that this man sexually abused his clients because he wanted to, because he had no care or consideration for his work responsibilities or the emotional well-being of his clients, because he thought he could get away with it.

This man gets to be as religious as he wants, as gay as he is. He doesn’t, in my opinion, get to use these as explanations for abusing anyone, disabled or not, especially not anyone he was supposed to be protecting.

It’s frustrating, too, since this case just reinforces the beliefs that gay people aren’t safe to be around. The headline on one story about Handasyde’s crimes tells us that he spent years “hiding his homosexuality behind victims who could not communicate.” Again, one thing has nothing to do with the other. He didn’t sexually abuse his clients because he was gay, though he may have justified it to himself that way.

Handasyde’s lawyer is calling what he did a “secret life.” A secret life is having an affair, visiting sex clubs, doing stuff that isn’t criminal but that you’re still afraid to tell people about.

Describing a crime as a secret life lends it an air of mystery and eroticism it doesn’t deserve.

I don’t care how contrite Handasyde is now. He was not contrite for thirteen years. This was not a crime of passion, or lack of control. This was a crime of intention.

It’s also truly sad that his victims are portrayed as people who can’t communicate.

One of them did, by pushing Handasyde away. Another had a noticeable personality change, becoming more aggressive. Another victim’s mother describes him as not having a “happy nature” anymore.

Imagine not being able to tell someone how unhappy you are. Imagine not being able to tell them that someone is touching your body and doing other things you don’t like or want. Imagine trying to tell, and having peple not understand.

There are no easy answers, especially since most of the tools used for getting information from people who don’t communicate verbally are visual, and most of the victims in this case are blind.

I don’t know what could have been done to help these men be safe from their abuser, but it’s worth pointing out that in those entire thirteen years, no one ever suspected Craig Handasyde of doing anything wrong, or, if there were suspicions, no one ever acted on them.

There was never a formal investigation.

Will the judge who passes his sentence see through all these excuses?

Further Reading

Protecting Vulnerability

Self-Advocacy

Resources for Self-Advocates

What Is Sexual Assault?

Invisible victims: Sexual assault of people with an intellectual disability

Sexual assault and adults with a disability: Enabling recognition, disclosure and a just response

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