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Toronto Sun

PORN VICTIM

Kids of abusive 'monster' got life sentence

Toronto Sun, By HIMANI EDIRIWEERA, March 9, 2003

He's a man in pain, chased by the ghosts of his past. His greatest fear as a child wasn't the monsters in his closet; his greatest fear was the monster he called "mom."

The horrors "Handyman" says he and his six siblings suffered as children are haunting them once more as they work with police to sift through recently seized, graphic child-porn images.

It's almost 30 years since Handyman's mother "Margaret" began selling her children to her friends -- and her victims shudder each time they hear of child-porn seizures, fearing their images may be included in the collections.

The victims, who can't be named to protect their identities, were sexually assaulted from age 3 -- raped, forced to perform oral sex, strangled, drugged, beaten with objects.

Toronto Police Det. Wendy Leaver of the sex crimes unit said it's difficult when dealing with historical sexual assault because many victims won't step up to testify.

"In historical investigations, many people don't want anything to do with it -- they've put it in the past and they want to keep it there," she said. But each time a porn arrest makes the news, "it's probably brought up a lot of memories and there are some (who) want that closure."

Margaret's children are now working with Toronto Police to find evidence that will help them in their civil suit against their mother, which in turn could also lead to further charges against anyone possessing the images.

"We can't drag (victims) into court because we have to respect their opinions and confidentiality -- but, if they come to us, there could be hundreds of individual charges against (those caught possessing child porn)," Leaver said.

"Dianna," Handyman's 34-year-old sister, said it's "pretty disgusting" that the victim has to find the evidence to convince disbelieving courts and authorities. "I have several memories of porn, especially reel to reel," she said.

Handyman looks like he's lived many years beyond his age. He stares blankly and tells his tale of abhorrent sexual abuse, suffered as a child at the hands of his mother who he says sold his tiny body to pedophiles.

Margaret, described in court as a "monster mom," sexually abused her children when they were tots, according to their suit.

Described by her kids as "living a life of drinking and drugging," she received only six months' house arrest.

Her victims -- her seven children -- say they have received a life sentence.

Margaret, then 50, had been charged with several counts of indecent assault, but the court in February 2001 accepted her guilty plea to three counts of failing to provide the necessities of life, to save her children from the trauma of testifying about the horrors they suffered.

Justice David Watt said Margaret was a first offender, convicted of crimes of omission that occurred 25 to 30 years ago in circumstances that seem unlikely to recur.

Handyman suffers physical and mental disabilities from the trauma. His handwriting is neat but his spelling and grammar are not.

"Wilde animal's aspecaily the female who hase young evin though she mighite be hert or starving will protect here young she will protect them evin though she now's she is going to die. If a animal know's to do this why doesnt the human," he wrote in a victim-impact statement for the court.

Dianna suffers physical disabilities from the beatings, and experienced traumatic amnesia for a long time. She also has partial paralysis and lives with multiple-personality disorder.

"It's an aversion to deal with crimes beyond human imagination. I have to come up with other personalities that think smarter than the criminal," Dianna told The Sun.

But, having earned two degrees with the intent of becoming an advocate for other victims, she attributes her success at having "outsmarted" her abusers.

Her siblings, she says, weren't as lucky. One brother is estranged from them; Handyman is merely surviving, unsure what "living" is like; the others are tormented by their past.

Handyman pauses, trying to think of a happy childhood memory, then recalls a time he and his two sisters were starving.

"I remember we had one of those Betty Crocker plastic ovens. We didn't know how to use it though, so we only ate the cake powder," he says. "There was also that time we put raw bacon on one of those old heaters. We were trying to cook it so we could at least have that to eat. Those are the only fond memories I have."

Dianna remembers being raped, beaten and left to starve.

Handyman attributes his partial blindness to the one thing that saved his life. After he took a blow to the head with a beer bottle, shattered glass tore through his eye, and, at age 7, he was finally removed from Margaret's care.

The children left behind still had to face years of abuse.

Children's Aid Society and Catholic Children's Aid Society were often involved with the family, according to Simona Jellinek, the lawyer handling the children's civil suit. Children's aid officials would not comment on the case.

The grown victims are ashamed they didn't fight back.

"Sometimes, I get so angry with myself that it makes me want to jump off the subway and put an end to this family curse," Handyman wrote in his statement to the court.

Now, he lives a life of fear and always carries a weapon.

Dianna refers to her mother only as her "egg donor."

"She's living in an area with children, and she spent her life abusing the ones she had -- what can she be thinking about her neighbours' kids?" Dianna said.

"It's hard to say that there is ever an appropriate punishment because our laws were not designed for this," Jellinek said. "Often with crimes against people, the perpetrator gets off easy. The crime and the punishment do not go hand in hand."

Jellinek said while going to court doesn't take away feelings of isolation and being ostracized, it's often a symbolic victory.

"The victims are now ... doing something -- so any amount of money, or any conviction, can represent a victory. It's not the amount they receive, it's what it represents," she said.

The family argues that Margaret's six-month conditional house arrest is no punishment for a monster.

"That family, that white picket fence, that dog -- that will never happen for me. I fear so much that I can't even breathe," Handyman told The Sun. "I'm in jail -- she only got six months' house arrest and I got life."