Counselling helped turn her life around, Linda Pharand tells fellow survivors
She'd reached Leslie Street when she was grabbed around the neck by a man she describes as slim and in his 30s. He dragged her about 100 feet towards Junction Creek, severely beat her — at times using a rock — and then raped her.
“He left me to die,” Pharand said.
Having been knocked unconscious, she was found the next morning by an elderly lady on her away to mass. Pharand woke up five days later in hospital.
At first she wasn't allowed to look in a mirror, as her face had been so severely damaged. “When he saw me, my father didn't recognize me,” she said.
She had a broken jaw and the doctors thought she was going to lose her left eye. Pharand has endured 20 surgeries on her face.
To this day, her face is partially paralysed, and she suffers from memory loss and headaches because of the beating.
Pharand's stomach, which her attacker had hit with a rock, was “black and blue.”
While the physical damage incurred during the attack was bad enough, Pharand was also left with emotional trauma which would plague her for years.
She developed a drinking problem and became depressed, twice attempting suicide. Pharand turned to food for comfort, and her weight crept up over 200 pounds.
With the assault, she was also forced to quit school, and never accomplished her dream of becoming a registered practical nurse.
Sometimes Pharand thinks about going back to school, but said she doesn't cope well with a lot of people around her.
The long-ago assault has also affected her relationship with men. Pharand has never married or had children.
“I would love to meet someone to enjoy the rest of my life with, but when they find out what happened to me they say 'You're dirty, I don't want nothing to do with you because you got raped,'” she said.
Fifteen years ago, Pharand sought counselling, and has gradually turned her life around, working through her emotional problems, quitting alcohol and sticking to a strict diet.
She's currently working closely with Centre Victoria Pour Femmes, local francophone sexual assault crisis centre.
Pharand, now 59 years old, said she decided to speak out about what happened to her to encourage other rape victims to seek help.
“You have to go for counselling,” Pharand said.
“This is the main thing you have to do. Do not keep it inside of you, because it's going to eat you, and your anger is going to make you gain weight or it's going to get you the idea to take your life away.”
While Pharand has her suspicions about who her rapist is based on other sexual assaults committed in the city shortly after her beating and rape, the case remains unsolved. She hopes that in reading about the case in the media, her attacker will turn himself into police.
Pharand also encourages other sexual assault victims to contact police. According to statistics from the Ontario Women's Directorate, fewer than one in 10 sexual assault victims report the crime to police.
“Do not hold this thing back, because maybe this person is going to do it to someone else,” Pharand said.
Gaetane Pharand, executive director of Centre Victoria Pour Femmes, said sexual assault can have pervasive and long-lasting impacts on victims' lives.
“Sexual assault is used as a tool of war,” she said. “There's a reason for that. It's because this is how you attain someone in their most intimate, their most vulnerable, and you can really do a lot of damage.”
While Linda Pharand is a powerful testament to the damage inflicted by sexual assault, she's also a role model for those who wish to move forward positively with their lives.
“She's worked really, really hard to get where she is today,” Gaetane Pharand said. “We were not instrumental in that as much as she was. She was the person that had that courage to bring it forward, share it with others and try to get things to change.”
Finding help-Centre Victoria Pour Femmes – 705-670-2517, [email protected], www.centrevictoria.ca.
-Voices for Women Sudbury Sexual Assault Centre – 705-671-5495, [email protected], www.hsnsudbury.ca
Sexual assault statistics- It is estimated that one in three women will experience sexual assault in their adult life.
- In 2004, 93 per cent of reported adult sexual assault victims were women.
- In 2007, 97 per cent of those accused of sexual assault were men.
- Fewer than one in 10 victims report the crime to police.
- The victim and accused are known to each other in 82 per cent of sexual assault incidents.
- Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are 18 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than those over the age of 55.
- It is estimated that 15 per cent of Canadian female university students experience sexual assault.
- Aboriginal women and women with disabilities are at increased risk of experiencing sexual assault.
Source: Ontario Women's Directorate