Ashley is a survivor. We aren’t using her real name because she is a victim of sex crime.
She said when she was 13 years old, a man named Adriaan Debakker pursued a sexual relationship with her when she was in junior high school. He was 21.
“When I was as a child, I didn’t know what grooming was or how wrong it was to have a relationship with older people,” Ashley said.
She admitted she lied at first, telling him she was 15 years old. The intimacy continued for months.
“He would make me feel valued and beautiful, giving me positive affirmation, which made me feel good about myself,” Ashley said. “As a child, you feel that’s the right feeling with someone and you feel loved.”
Advocates say predatory behaviour can escalate quickly, potentially lasting years.
Calgary’s Michael Myers arrested for failing to register as a sex offender
“That’s what makes grooming so effective, is the slow and gradual nature of it. It’s never too early or late to have conversations about safety, boundaries, healthy relationships, sex and consent,” Karen Orser, CEO for Luna Child and Youth Advocacy Centre, said.
Orser added it’s a legal obligation to report sexual abuse and watch for the concerning signs.
“We have to trust our gut. Adults that are paying particular attention to a specific child more than normal, predators ask kids to keep secrets and end up undermining parents as the relationship develops and start pushing physical boundaries,” Orser said.
Someone ended up reporting Debakker and he was arrested and charged with sexual contact with a child. Court documents show the charge included two underage girls. He served a 10-month sentence, was ordered to submit his DNA and was ordered to report to the sex offender registry for the next 20 years.
“How disgusting it is for a man to be engaged in relations with children,” Ashley said.
ICE investigator on internet child exploitation and safety tips
3 children among victims of intimate partner shooting in northern Ontario, police say
Italian PM Giorgia Meloni splits from partner after lewd TV comments
Debakker was recently re-arrested for allegedly failing to comply with his court orders. Calgary police picked him up after seeing him gaining notoriety, interacting with the community in a costume as a fictional horror movie character from the series Halloween.
“I was shocked, I didn’t think I would ever see his name again,” Ashley said.
“When I saw he was Michael Myers and posing with young girls, it just made me feel bad for them in a sense. They don’t know the truth behind that person.”
Debakker provided a statement to Global News and apologized to his “devoted fans.”
“My intentions were never to deceive or betray anyone, and I assure you there was never any danger posed to children,” Debakker’s statement said. “I want to make it unequivocally clear that I am not a pedophile, child molester, predator or any other reprehensible labels I’ve been called.”
He said he wanted to explain the charge.
“I believed that the legal age of consent was 14, but I was unaware that it had changed to 16 in 2010. When I connected with this individual on Facebook, they were 15 years old and their family had no objections to our relationship,” Debakker said. “When I learned about the change in the age of consent, I immediately ended the relationship because I understood was wrong.
“I want to acknowledge and take full responsibility for my mistake. I didn’t anticipate that ending the relationship would lead to legal repercussions, but I now understand the gravity of my actions and the need to face the consequences.”
Ashley said she hopes her experience empowers other young women to know it’s never too late to give voice to your story.
“He took things from me I will never get back,” she said.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.