Sexual assault survivor begins her advocacy for victims’ rights

Destiny Douglas makes her way down the Gore Bay courthouse steps last Thursday away from the building where she had witnessed her assailant sentenced to three years in prison and where she asked the judge to lift the publication ban imposed during the final trial so she could speak on behalf of victims’ rights and starting her new ‘destiny.’ photos by Alicia McCutcheon

Expositor gains exclusive interview following assailant’s sentencing last Thursday

GORE BAY—It must be hard to live up to a name like Destiny. You would be forever wondering what that destiny, your namesake, is. ‘Is this my destiny?’ you might ask on a regular basis. For Destiny Douglas, a young woman formerly of Central Manitoulin, the culmination of events stemming from one tragic August night in 2015 might just have set her on her destined path.

On August 1, 2015, at age 19, Destiny attended a party with her coworkers in Little Current. They were hired security for the Little Current Lions Club’s Haweater Weekend. The security guards were camping at the Manitoulin Country Fest grounds to be near their guard duties in and around the town that weekend.

Destiny says she always knew she wanted a job in security or in law enforcement so the opportunity with a local company was a good one. There were many people to learn from, former police officers even, like Roy Preston.

That night nearly three years ago, the court heard that Mr. Preston came on to Destiny on more than one occasion, groping her breast while the two off-duty guards gathered firewood. Destiny rebuffed the advances, noting their age difference (Mr. Preston is in his 40s) and reminding him that he was her superior. According to court documents, Mr. Preston did not give up on his advances which eventually led to forced oral sex, intercourse and vaginal penetration so rough with his hand that he removed Destiny’s contraceptive device.

In Gore Bay court last week, Mr. Preston was sentenced to three years in jail for the charge of sexual assault, 20 years on the sex offenders’ registry and 10 years’ prohibition from owning, or using, a firearm. He is appealing the conviction and maintains his innocence. Upon his charge in late 2015, Mr. Preston was dismissed as a security officer.

Destiny, in a move not often seen, asked the court to remove the publication ban on her case—a ban that is designed to protect the victim and help to keep her anonymous. The judge granted her wish and lifted the ban, allowing her now to talk freely about the ordeal and to begin her destiny as an advocate for victims’ rights.

Destiny Douglas makes her way down the Gore Bay courthouse steps last Thursday away from the building where she had witnessed her assailant sentenced to three years in prison and where she asked the judge to lift the publication ban imposed during the final
trial so she could speak on behalf of victims’ rights and starting her new ‘destiny.’
photos by Alicia McCutcheon

Following the sentencing hearing, Destiny, who remained stoic throughout the morning despite having to repeatedly hear the retelling of the tragedies that befell her that fateful night, smiled on the courthouse steps following the judge’s sentencing of her assailant. She told The Expositor she felt a weight had been lifted from her small, frail frame. Since the assault, Destiny has dealt with many health issues, including weight loss, heart problems, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and more.

Destiny has a Facebook page called ‘Life After’ where she has shared details about her assault and the ensuing three years of ongoing court appearances and struggles for victims’ services, but now she can truly tell her story, she states, thanks to the end of the publication ban.

“I do live feeds and talk about my experience, coping skills and turning all of this into positivity,” she tells The Expositor in an interview immediately following the judge’s sentencing pronouncement.

In the court room, as she read her victim impact statement, Destiny said, “I have written this statement so many times, I wanted it to be perfect. However, I have come to realize that there is no room for perfection in this system. Everything from day one has been completely out of my control. It may be hard to imagine for someone who has not yet become accustomed to our judicial system. The changing of court dates, the accused’s rights protected. I am just a prop being used to rectify his mistakes. I can’t even defend myself. I have not had a voice since I made the decision to press charges, until now. Last Friday, April 13th I was made aware of the adjournment of sentencing due to the weather. I took a drive to calm down. After several hours of driving I pulled over on the side of the highway because I couldn’t move. I put my car in park and the four-ways on, lay back in my seat and curled up in the fetal position. I watched out my side window for a long time, unable to move. Flashbacks of the rape rushing back. I had no control of my own body, that’s what you did to me.”

“What I need from you is the reason you did this to me,” Destiny continued. “What I need is an apology, but you won’t give it to me because that would mean you would have to own up to your mistake. My consequences have been far greater than yours ever will be. However, rather than dwelling on the things that I cannot change; rather than making you see what you did was wrong; today I will choose to forgive you; today will be the day that I start my new life. Today I will accept that I will never be the same. I will not get my old self back and I will never be who I was prior to August 1, 2015…I forgive you, and I accept myself.”

Mr. Preston stared straight ahead, never facing Destiny.

“You can’t hang on to anger,” she tells this reporter. “It’ll consume you.”

Destiny talks about her life with PTSD and hopes to spread the word, calling it an “invisible disorder” that not a lot of people know about. It consumes her life. Destiny says she suffers from emotional displacement, meaning that when she has anxiety, which affects her often now, it turns into anger and she lashes out at little things or she sometimes has irrational responses that confuse the people around her. She calls herself “bitchy” and says it’s influenced relationships with friends and family.

Three years ago, Destiny was healthy, weighing almost 145 pounds. Now she hovers around the 120-pound mark and keeping weight on is a struggle. She’s developed an eating disorder and suffers from malnutrition. The ordeal has also had an effect on her heart. The night before the sentencing was spent in hospital. She was discharged in time to get to the Gore Bay courthouse.

On August 1, 2015, following the assault, Destiny brought herself to the Manitoulin Health Centre to say she’d been raped. Like all rape victims, Destiny was taken to Sudbury to complete a rape kit. Once the probing questions and painful exam were over, she asked for a shower. She was told by the nurses on duty she couldn’t have one—the shower was being used for storage. Destiny persisted with her plea for a shower and, she says, the nurses begrudgingly removed the items from the shower and let her use it, but provided no soap or towel. Destiny filled her hand with soap from the hand soap on the wall and began to wash. She dried herself with her hospital gown. She was alone.

This first 24 hours after the assault was surely a harbinger of the trials and tribulations she would still face in the coming three years.

Destiny speaks of having to go over and over the night in detail in the courts and with her counsellors time and again, and of the re-opening of wounds for three straight years. When court first began, she received pamphlets in the mail from the various victims’ services opportunities. She was expected to do the reaching out. In her state, she says, that was never going to happen.

During the sentencing, Destiny was flanked by a Manitoulin Northshore Victims Services (MNVS) volunteer, a sexual assault counsellor and the court-appointed victims’ advocate and for their services she is truly grateful. However, she says, she only started to use the MNVS services since summer of last year.

For the most part, Destiny has had no help. She received psychotherapy sessions, but she had to source them on her own.

“This is a mask,” she says, motioning over her face. “Once I leave here, I’m going to get into my car and I’ll likely pull over somewhere on the side of the road, curl into a ball in my seat and just lose it.”

“We need to get the word out there that this stuff happens and happens all the time,” Destiny says.

“Everything is based on the rights of the accused,” she adds, pointing out the flaws, as she sees them, in the justice system. “If I had had proper support from the beginning, I likely would not have developed PTSD.”

Her accuser was left to freely wander the courthouse grounds during court days while she, Destiny says, was forced to be snuck in through the back and hidden away. “How is that fair?” she asks.

“The victim is really left on their own to navigate,” said MNVS volunteer Sarah Hutchinson, who has been supporting Destiny in recent months. “The onus should not be on the victim to reach out.”

Destiny spoke of a lack of support groups on the Island, pointing to the need for these services here. “And there’s so much that is not supported by the government,” she adds, noting that she had to pay for her counselling services from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board funds she received, and that if you do get those funds, defense attorneys always make sure it’s on the court record. She feels as though the lawyers are trying to imply that they became a victim in order to get free money.

Destiny did receive support throughout the three years from Ontario Provincial Police Constable Marie Ford, who was the responding officer the night of her assault. The young woman had much praise for the Manitoulin constable who always urged her to never give up.

Destiny still works in security, and also as a guard for the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). Post-secondary school has been a struggle for Destiny since the incident because of her anxiety, but she hopes to get back on track and earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree and head to law school where she can be a real force for change.

“I’m smart,” she says. “Why not? I know I can help see a lot of change in the justice system.”

Destiny, it appears your destiny is calling.