Monday, March 4, 2024

59-year-old retired sailor found guilty of sexual assault while stationed in Victoria


WARNING: This article contains information regarding sexual assault, assault and sexual violence.

A retired 59-year-old petty officer with the Royal Canadian Navy was found guilty in a court martial of sexual assault, assault and uttering threats toward a young woman while stationed in Victoria in 2006.

Petty Officer, 1st Class J.R. Levesque and his victim were both stationed in Victoria aboard the HMCS Oriole in 2006. This is where he would sexually assault her numerous times, assault her more than once and utter threats of sexual violence toward her. 

The victim was one of only three women aboard the HMCS Oriole at the time. She was only 20-years-old at the time and the Oriole was the first ship she had been stationed to. 

Sexual assaults

Levesque’s first instance of sexual assault toward his victim was dubbed the “ass-grab” incident by the court martial.

While the ship was out sailing, the victim was on her hands and knees cleaning when she heard steps behind her. 

Levesque had approached from behind and grabbed the victim from behind. 

The victim said the grab lasted a couple seconds and she described it as something she felt through her clothing. She said it was, “very distinct involving a full hand.”

According to the victim, Levesque said, “I am not doing anything,” in response and walked away.

The second instance of sexual assault occurred a few days after the initial incident. 

The victim said that she was trying to be vigilant so another incident wouldn’t happen following the first assault.

While doing her duties, Levesque approached her and grabbed her groin with force. She described the pain level as a seven out of 10.

Following this incident, she no longer felt safe on the HMCS Oriole. 

The third incident happened while the ship was at anchor and the crew was having a bonfire on land. 

When approaching the bonfire, someone made a comment about there being a lot of bugs and the victim had replied that she was wearing bug spray. 

Following this response, Levesque approached the victim in front of the crewmembers present and pressed himself against her body, “as if he was humping her.”

After this incident the victim realized the sexual assaults were not going to stop regardless of the fact she had spoken to commanding officers about Levesque’s conduct numerous times and told him to stop and leave her alone every time. 

The assaults

While the ship was sailing on open waters, Levesque approached the victim while she was completing her duties and grabbed both of her arms just above her elbows with enough force to leave noticeable bruises. 

The victim described the pain as an eight out of 10. 

Her bruising was so severe, she said other men didn’t want to be seen walking with her in fear that other crew members would think they were responsible. 

The second assault took place in Levesque’s cabin — it was part of the victims duties to clean several cabins, his being one of them. 

She heard him approaching while she was cleaning and tried to leave the cabin. 

According to the victim he grabbed her hair and pulled her back in to tell her she had not done a good job cleaning. 

Uttering threats of sexual violence

The victims said that the day after Levesque had assaulted her by grabbing her arms, he said to her, “when we have sex, I’ll leave bruises all over you.”

She understood this comment as him telling her that he would rape her. Following this she tried to make sure she was never alone with him. 

In her victim statement, the victim said that ever since these events took place in 2006, her mental health has taken a large toll.

“I was constantly on edge, looking over my shoulder trying to keep an eye on where Levesque was, trying to do what I could to stop him from sexually assaulting me,” said the victim. 

“I would always coordinate where I was going with someone else, which meant I lost all freedom of movement. Even the simplest things like going to do laundry, shower at the marina or going for a run I did not feel safe being alone.”

“I had to request to change bunks to try to put some distance between where I slept and Levesque, but even then, significant sleep issues persisted including nightmares.”

Court martial findings

Judge S.M. Sukstorf, who was presiding over the court martial, found that in the context of the evidence, Levesque did what he did to intimidate the victim, given she was a young cadet.

Prosecution suggested that Levesque serve a minimum of six months in prison as punishment while the 59-year-old retired petty officer’s defense suggested no imprisonment and instead Levesque should pay between $4,000 and $6,000 and receive a reprimand.

Judge Sukstorf determined Levesque’s sentence should be a severe reprimand and a fine of $7,000.

Curtis Blandy

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