On Jan. 15, 1977, Raymond Wallace Olsen became Christine Ambrose’s stepfather. Not long after he began sexually assaulting her. (Submitted)

On Jan. 15, 1977, Raymond Wallace Olsen became Christine Ambrose’s stepfather. Not long after he began sexually assaulting her. (Submitted)

Healing with honesty: Justice served 40 years later

Revelstoke senior gets house arrest for sexually assaulting stepdaughter

When Christine Ambrose was a child, she hugged a man she knew as “uncle,” who would later become her stepfather.

He was sitting on the porch crying and she had never seen him cry before. The hug was an act of comfort, an act of kindness and a moment Ambrose would come to bitterly regret.

Looking back, Ambrose said she believes that hug opened the door to the years of physical and sexual abuse from Raymond Wallace Olsen.

What started out as fondling and french kissing when she was in Grade 4, escalated to rape by Grade 9.

“I recall so clearly wanting to have sex with someone my age – so I wouldn’t have to admit that I was no longer a virgin because my stepfather had sex with me,” she said. “Maybe then, I would fit in and not feel like I had a big secret.”

Christine Ambrose at 18, one year after her stepfather sexually assaulted her for the last time and she was permanently removed from her home. (Submitted)

At 17 years old, Ambrose was living in a foster home, but agreed to move to Revelstoke to live with her family when her mother promised Olsen wouldn’t assault her anymore.

But he did.

It was the final straw. Olsen touching her without consent, again, made her realize the assaults wouldn’t stop as long as she lived with him.

She called a children’s helpline and was removed from the home, permanently.

Until that point, she had not reported the sexual assaults to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, despite being apprehended several times before.

“I just couldn’t,” she said. “I thought, at that time that, I was the only one in the world that had this happen to them.”

Seeking justice

More than 30 years later, the opportunity arose for Ambrose to seek justice.

Her mother, who has Alzheimer’s and dementia, ran away from the home in Revelstoke, where she had continued to live with Olsen all those years. She is now at a care home in Vernon.

Ambrose suspects Olsen was psychologically abusing her.

“I wouldn’t have reported as long as [my mom] continued to live with him because I felt she wasn’t safe there,” Ambrose said. “I didn’t know what he would do to her.”

It is not uncommon for sexual assault survivors to delay reporting to the police.

According to a federal Department of Justice report published in April 2019, 83 per cent of sexual assaults are not reported to police.

Another report, from Statistics Canada, found victims who know their attacker were nearly twice as likely to delay reporting the crime if they knew their attacker, versus if their attacker was a stranger.

Ambrose filed a report with the RCMP in 2016, spurring a two-year investigation.

In May 2019 Ambrose returned to Revelstoke for the preliminary hearing. She now lives in Victoria. (Submitted)

Aug. 1, 2018, Olsen appeared in court to face the charge of sexually assaulting Ambrose 39 years before.

A Statistics Canada report from 2017 found between 2009 and 2014, four in five sexual assaults reported to RCMP did not go to court.

However, Ambrose’s case never made it to trial – Olsen pleaded guilty.

Ambrose said she was surprised at the plea; he had never before taken responsibility for his actions.

“You have never said sorry,” she said in a victim impact statement that was written for the case. “You did the opposite, you told everyone I was crazy, that I was a liar, the black sheep of our family.”

Olsen was given an 18-month conditional sentence for his crime, which requires him to stay on his property in Revelstoke from 2 to 12 p.m. He is also required to never contact Ambrose and is banned from owning a firearm, consuming alcohol and is a registered sex offender for 10 years.

Ambrose said the sentence seemed like a slap on the wrist.

However, “To have this kind of closure, I feel blessed in those ways.”

Of all the sexual assault cases across Canada in the 2016-17 fiscal year, less than half of adult, criminal cases resulted in a guilty verdict, according to the federal Department of Justice.

Of those found guilty, 59 per cent were jailed and 10 per cent were ordered probation as the most serious sentence.

The recovery

In the years following her escape from Olsen, Ambrose built a life for herself, all while struggling with an eating disorder and PTSD.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, problems linked to childhood sexual abuse include mental illnesses, such as eating disorders, PTSD, as well as substance-use problems.

At 18, Ambrose married and started a family. Swearing to end the cycle of secrecy, she told her husband as well as her children what her stepfather had done.

But it wasn’t until a professional development day, amongst colleagues in Williams Lake, that she spilled her secret to people other than close family.

She was 29.

A year later, after working closely with a doctor, she overcame the cycle of binge eating and purging.

“I think it was telling the secret to people I really respected and admired, to people who were my coworkers,” she said. “Being open and honest with them I think was what lead to me being able to heal myself from the purging and binging part of the eating disorder.”

The memories of what Olsen did continued to haunt her, sometimes jolting her awake at night, jaw clenched, body shaking.

It has also been a struggle to build an emotionally and physically intimate relationship with her husband.

“What you did affected every aspect of my life, I learned not to be present, especially during intimacy,” she said in her victim impact statement to Olsen.

The court system

When it was finally time to see her abuser in court, Ambrose said the publication ban, which was put on the case during the preliminary hearing and nullified once the accused pleaded guilty, reinforced the shame of what happened to her.

“All of these other horrible people can be named on this court list, but what happened to you is so horrible we can’t even list their name,” she said she remembered thinking.

Publication bans are court orders preventing the publication or broadcasting of any information that could identify a victim, witness or other person(s) participating in a case.

The court proceedings took place at the Revelstoke Court House. (File photo)

“The publication ban is intended to allow victims, witnesses and others to participate in the justice system without suffering negative consequences,” the Canadian Ministry of Justice’s website reads.

However, even if there is no publication ban in place, any admission or confession from a preliminary hearing can’t be published, in accordance with Section 542(2) of the criminal code, which automatically applies to every preliminary hearing.

Despite the ban being lifted, Olsen’s name was not listed on the court docket when he was scheduled for sentencing and the case is not searchable on Court Services Online.

“Nobody will know about it,” she said, regretfully.

She said survivors should be asked whether or not they want a publication ban on their case.

With the case now closed and the story published 41 years later, Ambrose said she still feels shame, but she is not letting that stop her.

“I need to not be ashamed of it because I didn’t do it,” she said.

Need help?

In case of an emergency call 911.

Revelstoke RCMP 250-837-5255

Victim LinkBC (referral services for all victims of crime, crisis support for victims of family and sexual violence): 1-800-563-0808

Child Abuse Helpline: 310-1234

Mental Health Support 310-6789

Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention: 1-800-784-2433

Kids Help phone: 1-800-668-6868


 

@JDoll_Revy
jocelyn.doll@revelstokereview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Central Okanagan Public Schools administration office in Kelowna. (File photo)
COVID-19 confirmed in 5 more Central Okanagan schools

All people who tested positive for the virus are self isolating at home

“Flower” was installed outside Interior Health’s downtown Kelowna Community Health & Services Centre on Wednesday, Nov. 25.(Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
New public art installation unveiled in downtown Kelowna

The piece, called Flower, sits in front of Interior Health’s Community Health & Services Centre on Doyle Avenue

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 70 new cases overnight

The total number of cases in the region is now at 1,426

Cranbrook business and property owners are encouraged to flush their water lines ahead of reopening. All it takes is running the cold water tap for several minutes. (Cranbrook Townsman file)
UPDATE: Water advisory issued on Westside

Westshore Estates leak repair causes need to flush system

KLO Middle School. (Google Maps)
KLO Middle School community member tests positive for COVID-19

According to SD23, the individual is self-isolating at home

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Penticton Law Courts
Bail hearing for Penticton man charged with sex assault, forcible confinement

Robert Sauve is facing more than 10 criminal charges

Revelstoke RCMP warn of scam after two people targeted in one day. (Black Press file photo)
Revelstoke RCMP warn of scammer pulling at heart strings

Two people in Revelstoke targeted in one day by person posing as a loved one

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP investigate suspected arson at Shuswap hunting camp

Suspicious fire took place by Scotch Creek forest service road on Oct. 24

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

St. James Anglican Church, Armstrong, B.C. (Google Maps).
Prayer at North Okanagan council meetings a violation of religious neutrality: study

New study found 23 municipalities held prayer sessions at inaugural meetings in 2018, in violation of a Supreme Court decision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An assault charge has been filed after a 10-year-old boy was allegedly struck with a watermelon at a Shuswap campsite in August . (File photo)
Alberta woman facing assault charge after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Shuswap campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read