Free to do it again and again

A warning before I begin:

This blog post may be triggering for some as it contains mentions of sexual abuse and physical attacks by a predator.  Please don’t read any further if these are topics which may cause mental anguish, flashbacks, or disassociative spells.

Today there was an article in the paper entitled “Repeat sex offender fits ‘dangerous’ designation“.  It is about a man named Cameron Downs, a 47 year old man with a lifetime of attacks under his belt.  But for me, it was about a teenage boy who abused me and went on to hurt many, many others.

Why share?  Sexual abuse, like mental illness has a stigma in our society – and it shouldn’t.  I don’t live my life as a victim.  I was harmed as a child, but that doesn’t take away from who I am, nor does it solely shape my identity.  Feeling that I should be ashamed, I’ve hidden away these facts, careful not to share them in case it might colour what people think of me.  But you know what?  That only adds to the power of the abuse.  I wasn’t to blame, and while I was a victim as a child, I am not any longer.  I refuse to allow societies shame to be my own.  If we don’t talk about these kinds of things, it allows them to happen again.  It feeds into the idea that they, the victims, should hide away and not be seen.  So I’m pulling back the curtain and letting in some light.

I run a Facebook group for people who grew up during the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s in our Saskatoon neighbourhood.  When my mom shared the news story that ran today, shock resonated through the group.  A few individuals posted about what a nice guy he was, and how they couldn’t believe he was capable of the atrocities the news story mentioned.

I couldn’t help but speak up, saying only that he was not a nice guy – ever.  One person even tried to correct me, saying that he was a nice guy when they knew him.  But no.  He really wasn’t.

I was five years old.  FIVE.  My daughter is four and a half, and it makes me shudder to my very core to think there are people who would look at her the way he looked at me.  He was 17.

Back then, like all children, I believed that people were innately good.  And that all people deserved second chances.  So when the police officer asked me what I wanted to have happen to Cameron I said that I just wanted him to get help.  We didn’t press charges, and Cameron went into counseling.

Now, knowing the string of incidents that followed, I can’t help but feel remorse.  I know I am not responsible for all those he hurt after me – including someone else I love very dearly (the “elderly woman” the article mentions in the last paragraph).  But I can’t help but wonder if I could have prevented some of what happened if I had pushed for a harsher punishment.

I am not mentioned in the article.  It claims his first sexual assault occurred against a teenager when he was 31.  But it didn’t.  It occurred against a five year old girl, when he was 17 and my Gramma stepped out to buy groceries…

30 years have passed, and when I think back to what happened there is so much I can picture with crystal clarity – and other things I’ve blocked out almost entirely.  It was at that age that I became a pro at disassociating.

I still believe that people have a basic goodness within them, but I also believe we have within us the potential for horrible atrocities.  We are none of us purely good and none of us purely evil.  I don’t know if I did the right thing by choosing not to press charges…  but it was the right thing for me, at the time.  I needed to be able to believe that people, even someone as obviously sick as Cameron, were deserving of second chances.  But it was by my hand that he was free.  Free to do it again, and again.  And for that?  For that I will always have regret.

The StarPhoenix Online:

About Tobi-Dawne

Tobi-Dawne Smith is many things to many people... photographer, canine behaviour expert, equal rights activist, green politician, lactivist, intactivist, writer, crafter, dog handler, third wave feminist, etc. But most important in her life is her role as mother to an amazing five year old. Learn more about TD at follow her blog at get to know her daughter at or check out her work at

Posted on March 8, 2012, in Family, People and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. He got 3 years for one attack, and 15 and 18 months, respectively for the next two. And then there was one more after that.

    Hon, I understand why you might feel some guilt for the first offense after you. But after that one, it seems to me there is plenty of guilt to go around.

  2. Sweetie, you were very young (far too young to have to know about anything like this!) and you thought you were doing the right thing. At that young age, you realized he was messed up and you wanted to help make it all better. Don’t blame yourself.

  3. You are so brave to come out with this!! I have to pat you on the back for doing so!! You keep your head up and proud! I’m sure purging this info that you have held inside you for so long has to be quite a cleansing experience. You go girl!!

    • LOL Thank you Bev. It feels weird knowing that anyone who cares to know now can. I truly hope it doesn’t colour anyone’s perspective of me. We, as a society, tend to view victims differently than we view others. I was a victim as a child, but I’m not now. And I didn’t share to gain anything for myself, especially not pity. I shared to help remove the shame that any childhood victim of sexual abuse feels – especially those who are deeply and constantly affected by it. We need to move beyond societies desire to keep such things hidden. Bringing light to these issues will help those who have been victimized, but it will also help prevent future abuses. It NEEDS to be okay to talk about.

  4. hugs! you were trying to help him but unfortunately it didn’t work

  5. TD – what an incredible story. Good for you for getting it out there. Your story reinforces my belief that people can only change if they want to….he clearly didn’t, even when given the opportunity that he didn’t deserve.

    • Thank you Wanda. And yes, like we all have the potential for good or evil, we all make the choice of which path to follow. Our circumstances as children may point us in one direction or the other, but we still have the power to allow those experiences to serve as negative or positive examples, to be avoided or repeated.

  6. Love you so much Tobi-Dawne. You give so damn much

  7. Kudos to you for “outing” yourself, and I hope it helps you let go of whatever remnants of shame and guilt you still possess.

  8. creativelyobsessed

    It is sad how our society makes the victims feel that they should have to hide what happened to them. Why should an innocent, young child feel ashamed? Because the subject makes someone else uncomfortable? Probably the only thing that makes me madder than that, is when people try to tell us what a great guy he (the abuser) was. Unable to recognize that the person they thought they knew, was nothing but a mask for a monster. This post was a big step for you, difficult I am sure. Hugs, prayers and support coming your way.

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