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This article was published 23/9/2014 (1791 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Winnipeg mother says child-welfare staff pushed her to allow a convicted child molester back into her home, ignored her warnings and then failed to stop the man from raping their daughter and another preteen girl.
The 32-year-old man was convicted this month of multiple counts of sexual abuse against his stepson, his daughter and his girlfriend's daughter and is now facing a potential dangerous-offender designation. The role Child and Family Services played in failing to protect the children over a period of nearly 15 years is also the subject of an internal review launched by Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross, who said she was sickened by the case. The Free Press cannot name the pedophile or his victims due to a publication ban, and because at least one of the children is in the care of CFS.
While waiting for the sentencing hearing slated for January, the mother and her son, now 22, described a chronology of abuse perpetrated by a man they called a master manipulator, who wormed his way back into their home and convinced police and social workers he had mended his ways.
"It drove me insane. I just wanted someone to listen, and they wouldn't. It's always been like that," said the mother. "I couldn't prove it. How do you say to someone that 'I just feel something is going on?' "
'I couldn't prove it. How do you say to someone that "I just feel something is going on?" '— Winnipeg mom
She now thinks the man began abusing her son — his stepson — when the boy was four or five. But her real suspicions surfaced when the couple was living in a small rural town. One evening, she spotted her son, then eight, grinding against her toddler daughter while the two watched television. That kind of sexualized behaviour, she knew from her own experience of abuse, was a red flag.
Charges were laid. The man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years' house arrest, two years of probation and two years in a sex-offender rehabilitation program where he earned glowing reviews from mental-health experts and was deemed a low risk to reoffend. Social workers would continue to assess him as low risk for years afterward.
It was when he was nearing the end of his sentence the mother began feeling pressure to take him back — pressure from his family, who said she should never have gone to police, from her son and daughter who wanted their family to remain intact and from child-welfare workers.
"That's when they started coming to me saying he has rights to see his daughter," said the mother. "The whole family reunification thing... It was always 'You have all these health issues. You can't do this by yourself.' "
The mother, now 38, is well-spoken but emotionally fragile. She has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since she was a child, has had several hip replacements and surgeries and takes heavy-duty painkillers such as hydromorphone, which has led to allegations of drug abuse by social workers. She does not currently care for her two daughters, the youngest of whom is in a CFS group home. The woman lives alone in a small apartment, has had many relationships and moved her children all over Manitoba, often in an effort to get away from her pedophile boyfriend, who would insinuate himself back into her home "like a f ing virus."
In the few years following the initial charges, the on-again-off-again couple had a third child, the daughter now in care. The man continued to occasionally molest her son until he was 12. At one point, police, doing a random house arrest check, knocked on his door while the man and the boy were in the shower. Police searched the house briefly, but never checked the shower, where the boy remained.
The mother said she continued to allow the man to live in her home, partly because he refused to leave and partly because she was employing a "keep-your-enemies-closer" strategy, thinking she could keep an eye on him. If he left, social workers frequently suggested she'd lose custody of the children to him, allowing him to molest at will.
Three years ago, the relationship finally ended and the man began dating a woman with a daughter the same age as his youngest, who was also living with him at the time. The woman dropped by one afternoon and believes she interrupted the man and his girlfriend's preteen daughter while they were in the shower.
"I called CFS and said I don't have any proof, I don't have anything concrete, but I have a feeling," she said. "They treated me like a crazy ex-girlfriend."
Police and social workers interviewed both girls. They used dolls to help determine whether anything inappropriate had happened and questioned the man. The process netted no evidence.
Shortly after that, in the spring of 2013, the woman's youngest daughter discovered the evidence. While playing on her father's phone, she stumbled on pictures of him assaulting his girlfriend's daughter, whom he'd drugged.
The girl, then 10 or 11, went to her mother, who went to police. They launched a long forensic process to recover the images. They found similar photographic evidence the man had also drugged and raped his own daughter.
The woman's son also revealed the abuse he continued to suffer even after his stepfather was convicted years before. The trio of victims prompted 14 separate charges. The man pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual abuse and one count of child pornography.
The woman believes police and social workers could have prevented the abuse, and, if the man is ever released, he will reoffend.
Child-welfare staff said they could not comment on the case because of confidentiality legislation. Staff in the minister's office said they will look at whether all the proper protocols were followed in the case.
Updated on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 6:17 AM CDT: Replaces photo, changes headline