Survivor of childhood sexual assault determined to lead happy life

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 4, 2017 - The Guardian

©JIM DAY/TC MEDIA

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Kate Eastman is determined to forge a good life by doing all in her power to emerge from a dark past.

She still has work to do – she likely always will – to deal with a devastating history of childhood sexual abuse that still hurts and haunts her today.

The 28-year-old Charlottetown woman endured sexual abuse by her stepfather, Patrick Arthur Timmons, for many years. In 2012, she took Timmons to task for his horrendous criminal actions by turning to the Charlottetown Police Services.The following year, Timmons was sentenced to four years in a federal correctional facility after entering guilty pleas to charges of sexual touching and sexual exploitation.

He was released last year but Eastman hopes to see him sent back to jail.

She is waiting for the Crown in Ontario, where she says most of the sexual abuse occurred, to decide how to proceed following a police investigation into Eastman’s complaints. Eastman went public with her story of childhood sexual abuse in a front-page article published in The Guardian in August 2015. She first went through a cumbersome process to successfully have a publication ban lifted so she could tell her story without the need to conceal her own identity.

Eastman is clearly willing to take many steps — some quite bold — to confront her past to pave the way to a healthy, productive future. First, she is doing an impressive job caring for herself. She seeks counseling on a regular basis. She has put a premium on fitness – a good avenue, she notes, for “taking the frustration out’’ – through yoga, strength training and walking.

Eastman is also in a strong, positive relationship with her fiancé, Shawn Wilkinson, after spending many years in unhealthy relationships. “I was definitely seeking love in all the wrong places,’’ she says, noting she had a marriage that lasted less than two years. “I was negative. I didn’t know how to communicate.’’

Now, she is doing a much better job for herself – and for others.

Since March 2015, she and her mother, Deborah McEachern, have spearheaded a community organization called Turn on the Lights. The group helps spread awareness of childhood sexual abuse, giving families and survivors a place to talk and heal. Eastman says the group, which is close to attaining charitable status, receives at least two messages a week from people looking for help in dealing with childhood sexual abuse. She wants the initiative to grow into a major movement that instills in many survivors of sexual abuse a feeling of empowerment to speak out.

She encourages others to follow her lead in pressing charges against their abusers.

Eastman has no regrets charging her stepfather. Even though the process was difficult and draining, the outcome was rewarding. “I understand fully that it is terrifying coming forward, but in the end I wouldn’t change a thing about it,’’ she told The Guardian in 2015. “I don’t want to see these people (who sexually abuse children) walk the face of the earth. There’s way too many of them.’’

Eastman finds helping others to be therapeutic. “I am almost doing my own healing through helping others,’’ she says. “You can help so many other people just by speaking.’’

And, it seems, by simply walking together.

Eastman will organize the third annual Shine The Light Walk in July – an event that drew more than 60 people last year to the Charlottetown boardwalk to show other survivors, as well as those still living with abuse, that they’re not alone. “It happens in the dark,’’ Eastman’s mother McEachern says of childhood sexual abuse. “The only way to make a change is to shine a light on the abuse.’’

Eastman also hopes to pursue a career that brings light to people experiencing darkness. She will be graduating in May in Family Science from the University of Prince Edward Island. She wants to work on P.E.I. helping families find their way through great hardship. She feels doubly equipped to help by having the valuable combination of professional training along with harsh personal experience.

Ultimately, the life she hopes to lead seems reasonable enough, though she knows continued strength and resolve will be needed to fulfill the pursuit.

“I just want to lead a happy, healthy life helping others,’’ she says.

Reaching out

Victims of sexual assault can call P.E.I. Victim Services at 902-368-4582 to seek assistance with the criminal justice process or to access other supports and services they might need.

To learn more about a community organization that helps spread awareness of childhood sexual abuse, visit www.turnonthelights.ca.

http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/news/local/2017/2/4/survivor-of-childhood-sexual-assault-determined-to-lead-happy-li.html


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Great Canadians: Turn on the Lights

Turn on the Lights founder Kate Eastman gives a voice to sexual abuse victims.

BY STÉPHANIE VERGE, WITH RESEARCH BY MAUREEN COULTER
Readers Digest - October 2016

 

Kate Eastman and her initiative Turn on the LightsPhoto: Heather Ogg

Kate Eastman was 23-years-old when she came forward. First she told her mother. Then they went to the Charlottetown police together.Less than three years later, in March 2015, Eastman-along with her mother, Deborah McEachern-founded Turn on the Lights. She wanted to raise awareness about the very thing she had kept quiet for so long: childhood sexual abuse, which, according to a 2014 report from the Canadian Medical Association Journal, happens to as many as one in 10 Canadians.

“The scariest thing you can do to an abuser is to use your voice,” says Eastman. She did just that, pursuing her stepfather through the Prince Edward Island judicial system. He was sentenced to four years in federal prison for sexual acts that began when Eastman was six and ended when she moved out at 20.

McEachern left her husband following Eastman’s disclosure, but the family’s difficulties were far from over. McEachern wasn’t able to float the household-which still included Eastman’s younger brothers and sister-on a single income while also dealing with the debt her husband had accumulated.

A year and a half later, the family lost its home. That unexpected fallout led to discussions about, among other things, the lack of financial assistance for those coping with the effects of sexual abuse.

“Going through the aftermath, we learned that there’s nothing out there telling you what you should do,” says McEachern. Turn on the Lights doesn’t so much tell survivors and their families what to do as help them figure out their next move.

Eastman has given talks in area schools, and candlelight walks and “teal shirt days” (teal has been adopted as the colour of sexual abuse awareness and prevention) have upped the group’s profile. But it’s social media that’s been invaluable. Eastman receives an average of four messages a week from survivors, most of them in P.E.I.

“Our website and Facebook page are healing places,” says Eastman. “We talk about mental health. We talk about victim services. And we talk about how each situation is different-what works for one person might not work for someone else.”

Andrew Muttart was sexually abused over the course of three years by an older community member in his small P.E.I. town. He wasn’t able to talk about his experience until he was 29, more than two decades later. At that point, he had lost a lawn-care business and a home through gambling and drinking, two of the only things that distracted him from his pain.

These days, Muttart copes through communication: with Eastman, with family and friends, with strangers. In addition to his volunteer work with Turn on the Lights, where he does outreach and fundraising, Muttart is part of Men Matter, a separate program aimed at male survivors.

“Men are taught that they’re supposed to be tough, and that’s one of the main reasons I kept things inside. But I have a son who is seven-the age I was when the abuse started. I realize now how much it affected me growing up, and how much it affects me as a parent,” he says. “It helps to talk with people who understand what I’m going through.”

That feeling of support is what Eastman-who recently entered her fourth year at the University of Prince Edward Island, where she’s wrapping up a degree in family science-hopes to replicate.

“I want Turn on the Lights to be my lifelong career. I want to always be the person who says ‘I’ve also been there. I get it.’ Had there been help like that when I was growing up, I would have spoken up sooner.”

http://www.readersdigest.ca/features/heart/great-canadians-turn-on-the-lights/


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Charlottetown survivor of childhood sexual abuse leads awareness group

WARNING: This story contains discussion about child sexual abuse and may be disturbing to some

By Laura Meader, CBC News Posted: May 13, 2016 7:00 AM ATLast Updated: May 13, 2016 7:00 AM AT

A survivor of childhood sexual abuse says there needs to be more awareness about the problem and less fear discussing it. Kate Eastman of Charlottetown has set up an organization and a special walk to bring the issue into the spotlight.

Eastman was sexually abused by her stepfather starting when she was six years old. "There were times that he would just climb on top of me," said Eastman. "He wanted to be my first and this was a relationship to him."

He was charged, eventually pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to four years in prison.

It's a hard story to hear, but Eastman says childhood sexual abuse needs to be talked about.She and her family have set up the group Turn on the Lights to offer support to others.

"It's the abuse that's not talked about, and we keep it unreported, and we keep it silenced all the time and that's not what it should be," Eastman said. "So we started Turn on the Lights in hopes of raising awareness and bringing more people forward, and letting them know that they're not alone."

Family part of group

Another family member involved is Eastman's mother.

Deborah McEachern, Kate Eastman's mother, says her family wants to bring something good out of something bad. "We called it Turn on the Lights because it's bringing light to a crime that happens in the dark, and that there's darkness about, we want it to be brought to the light," said McEachern. "Abusers operate in secret, they operate in the dark."

Eastman tries to help people through her facebook site, email, or talking in person.

Some of those who reach out still haven't reported the abuse.

"I think you have that feeling of just being alone, that nobody is going to understand you and nobody is going to believe you," she said.

Had publication ban removed

Eastman herself had to get a publication ban lifted in order to speak publicly about what happened to her. "It's easy to kind of print it in the paper and not say the victim's name and say the perp's name or even, you know, this girl, or this boy had it happen to them," explained Eastman. "But to have someone stand up and say, 'No! Use my name, use my face, somebody has to be an advocate for somebody."

Eastman still struggles some days, she said, but feels silence is worse. "I find it uplifting, it's peaceful knowing that you're helping other people in this world," she said. "If there had been something like that when, before I came out, I probably would have come out sooner."

Her family hopes someday to turn the group into a charity, so they can help people financially as well. "Everything you knew is gone, your home is gone, your furniture is gone, your friends are gone, everything you ... knew has vanished, that's what this is like, you lose everything," said McEachern. "It doesn't matter what he did, we were married, I'm responsible for his debt."

Kate Eastman sees a counsellor, and walks are always good therapy as well.

On Saturday night, the Turn on the Lights group will hold a walk on the Charlottetown boardwalk. It will begin with a moment of silence, with walkers holding lights, a chance to show other survivors — and those still living with abuse — that they're not alone.

Kate Eastman said at last year's walk, a participant told her it was the first time that she didn't feel so alone.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/child-sexual-abuse-charlottetown-1.3580202


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Survivor of childhood sexual abuse on P.E.I. seeks justice for others

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on August 1, 2015

kate-eastman-2920756.jpg

Kate Eastman, 26, of Charlottetown is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who is determined to make a difference in the lives of others who have gone through similar devastation.

©JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN

 

Years upon years of struggle for Kate Eastman lead her to begin program called Turn on the Lights

She just could not let him get away with it.

Kate Eastman, 26, of Charlottetown endured for many years, beginning when she was just a young girl, the confusion, hurt and devastation that was born from ongoing sexual abuse by her stepfather Patrick Arthur Timmons.

She just wanted the assaults to stop. So much so, she even contemplated suicide as early as age eight. Still, she endured in silence. The silent suffering would span many years.

Eastman eventually made the difficult decision to seek justice. She went to Charlottetown Police Services on May 28, 2012, informing a police officer that Timmons had been sexually abusing her since she was around the age of six years old.

Accusing her stepfather of sexual assault would prove to be an excruciating process, leaving Eastman with second thoughts about her action. “Sitting in there (with the police) for five, six hours was horrible,’’ she recalls. “And the entire process: oh my gosh, the amount of times you want to give up on it, it’s unbelievable.’’

She did not give up. Her stepfather, as a result, faced the courts. Timmons, who entered guilty pleas to charges of invitation to sexual touching and sexual exploitation was sentenced in July 2013 to four years in a federal correctional facility. In passing sentence in P.E.I., Supreme Court Justice Gordon Campbell described Timmons’ conduct as reprehensible and said it called for serious denunciation.

Not only was the conduct despicable, it wreaked havoc on Eastman’s life. Eastman looked to Timmons with hope that he could be a man who could step into the loving and nurturing paternal role left vacant by her biological father’s death when she was just a young girl. Timmons failed miserably. “I kind of looked at it like ‘you were supposed to be a father to us, and you weren’t,’’’ she says.

When Timmons was charged, and later sent to jail, for sexually assaulting Eastman, the fallout extended to Eastman’s mother and to Eastman’s three siblings: two brothers and a half-sister. Great emotional and financial hardship ensued. Her mother lost her home. Her siblings struggled with both the discovery of a father committing such a vile crime, but also with the reality that dad was being removed from their lives.

Emotions ranged from anger to depression. So Eastman suffered for years keeping silent while allowing the abuse to continue, but she also was harshly rewarded with great pains for holding Timmons to task. Understandably, many factors came in to play that had her questioning whether it was worth pursuing charges.

Ultimately, the answer was a resounding yes. “There is not a moment I ever regret going through with it,’’ she says. “I understand fully that it is terrifying coming forward, but in the end I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I think it was the best thing that could have happened for everybody.’’

Now she is determined to urge other people to speak out on sexual assault, and to pursue charges against their abusers. “I don’t want to see these people (who sexually abuse children) walk the face of the earth,’’ she says. “There’s way too many of them.’’

Eastman could not be a more determined advocate.

First, she successfully pursued charges against her stepfather, who was recently denied parole. She is still pursuing further charges against Timmons for sexual abuse she alleges took place in Ontario. Eastman spent the past four months determinedly going through a cumbersome process to successfully have a publication ban lifted (an extremely rare occurrence in sexual assault cases in P.E.I.) so she could go public with her story without the need to conceal her own identity.

In March, she also started, along with her mother, a community organization called Turn on the Lights. The organization helps spread awareness of childhood sexual abuse, giving families and survivors a place to talk and heal.

The cause does not end there for Eastman. She is also looking to draw on her years of turmoil to help fuel a caring career. She will be entering her third year of Family Studies at UPEI in September with a particular focus placed squarely on family violence. She would love to have a career working with victims of crime, notably victims of childhood sexual abuse.

Eastman’s advice to parents when a child says he or she is — or has been — sexually abused? Believe them.

“I was very fortunate in the fact that my mom automatically believed everything that I said,’’ she says. “There are definitely cases where that is not happening.’’

Reaching out

Victims of sexual assault can call P.E.I. Victim Services at 902-368-4582 to seek assistance with the criminal justice process or to access other supports and services they might need.

To learn more about a new community organization that helps spread awareness of childhood sexual abuse, visit www.turnonthelights.ca.

BY THE NUMBERS

Under reported

6 of every 100 incidents of sexual assault are reported to the police.

1 to 2 per cent of “date rape” sexual assaults are reported to the police.

1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime.

2 to 4 per cent of all sexual assaults reported are false reports.

60 per cent of sexual abuse/assault victims are under the age of 17.

80 per cent of sex crime victims are women.

79 referrals of sexual abuse cases per year were made to P.E.I. Victim Services between 2011 and 2014.

http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/news/local/2015/7/31/survivor-of-childhood-sexual-abuse-on-p-4232227.html

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