A former security guard at the Ottawa Hospital was sent to jail today for four years. 44-year-old Clinton Russell will do time in a federal prison for sexually assaulting two female patients, both of whom are developmentally-delayed. This day was a long time coming for the two victims of this crime, who feared no one would believe their story that they had been sexually assaulted by a security guard. But the judge believed them and told Clinton Russell as she sent him to jail today that his actions were repugnant. Clinton Russell was out on bail until today. He headed into the Ottawa courthouse with his wife of 20 years clutching his arm, knowing it would be his last day of freedom for some time for preying on vulnerable women with special needs. His two victims had been patients on the psychiatric ward at the Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital where Russell had worked for 17 years.
“She’s very devastated about this,” said the mother of one of his victims, a 32-year-old woman who testified that she was forced by Russell to perform oral sex on him at the hospital in 2011. She functions at the level of a 5 to 8 year old. In her victim impact statement, she drew a picture of herself looking mad and scared and wrote that she felt “depressed, angry, scared and embarrassed” when this happened to her. She immediately reported it to hospital staff; Crown produced evidence to show it took 5 hours for police to be called.
“A lot of people with disabilities don't come forward,” said the victim’s mother outside the courthouse, “because a lot of people don't believe them.”
“I asked the question to the jury,” said Crown Prosecutor Suzanne Schriek, “and I ask it now of you. Would any of us tolerate that if we were a patient or victim of sexual assault, would we tolerate a delay of 5 or 6 hours?”
Believability was a key issue at the heart of this trial. These were women with intellectual disabilities. What the Crown discovered during the course of the trial was that their stories of sexual abuse were not unusual. The Crown produced a report by American doctor Nora Baladerian on “Sexual Abuse of People with Develomental Disabilities” that reported that 100 percent of women with developmental delays who were in a group home or institution had been sexually assaulted by the time they were 18 years old.
"That's a startling statistic,” said Schriek after the sentencing, “this is from a US report but it is analogous to Canada. So while there are no similar studies, we can imagine the number of victims is as high.”
The Crown had asked that Russell be sentenced to 8 years in prison. Ultimately, he got 4 in a federal pen for what Justice Monique Metivier called a "repugnant” breach of his position of power.
Detective Lisa King was the lead investigator on the case for the Ottawa Police, “I think if nothing else, this indicates if they come forward they will be listened, will be taken seriously and that's the message we need to get out.”
It is a message the victim’s mother says her daughter has clearly heard.
“She says to me, this is my I’m doing it, mom. She said as long as he goes away for a while and thinks about what he did, I'm hoping he won't do it to anybody else.”
Just before he was led away, Clinton Russell was asked by Judge Metivier if he had anything to say. He did not. Russell has maintained his innocence throughout. There is every likelihood he will appeal the sentence.
Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa